GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- This weekend, the Calvin women's volleyball team welcomes Saint Mary's, Hope, and Adrian to Van Noord arena for the MIAA postseason tournament.
On Friday night, the top-seeded Knights faced off against the fourth-seeded Adrian College Bulldogs tournament semifinals. Calvin came back from a first-set loss to defeat Adrian 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-11, 25-17) to earn a spot in the MIAA Tournament finals and remain undefeated on the year.
"Both teams came out wanting to win. It maybe wasn't the best-played match on both sides, but I was really happy that we got the job done, and particularly I liked how we responded after losing a tough first set," said Calvin women's volleyball head coach Dr. Amber Warners. "It happens. It normally doesn't happen to us, but I think that's just a part of the game."
"What I loved about tonight is that we responded together," said Warners. "The focus became less on the score and the outcome and more on building each other up. We talked about focusing less on your personal performance and more on others, and how that's going to bring everyone else up."
Calvin entered the match ranked No. 1 in the country with a 26-0 overall record and 16-0 conference mark. Adrian came into the postseason with at 15-13 overall and 9-7 in MIAA play.
The contest marked the third meeting this year between the two teams. In both of the regular season matches, the Knights have swept the Bulldogs. Early in the season, the Knights won in straight-sets 25-12, 25-13, 25-13, and then again in mid-October, defeating Adrian 25-21, 25-18, 25-16.
The Knights jumped on the Bulldogs early in the first set. Calvin took a 7-2 lead, backed by kills from senior Laura Danhoff (Willard, Ohio/Willard HS), junior Tessa Van Laare (Toronto, Ontario/Toronto District Christian) and Jenna Lodewyk (Villa Park, Ill./Timothy Christian HS), forcing an Adrian timeout. The Bulldogs would chip away at the Knights' lead, claiming eight of the following ten points to knot the score at ten. The teams exchanged points with Calvin holding onto a two-point lead (17-15) until the visiting Bulldogs strung together a four-point run behind the serve of Margo Joubran to pull ahead 19-17.
Down 20-19, the Knights would go on a 3-0 run to gain a 22-20 advantage, but were answered by three straight points by Adrian. Calvin called timeout to halt the Bulldogs' momentum. Out of the break, freshman Sarah DeVries (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northpointe Christian HS) put down a big kill to tie the score at 23, but Adrian would take the claim the last two points of the set to secure a 25-23 victory.
The Knights led by a small margin to start the second set, but began to pull away after a kill by Sarah DeVries. Up by two, the Knights would score a pair of points to go up 9-5. The Bulldogs showed resilience, claiming five of the next nine points to cut Calvin's lead to three (13-10). The Knights began to find their groove, going on a 7-3 run, fueled by kills from four Knight attackers, to take a 20-13 lead. Adrian would score the next three points, but a pair of kills by both Van Laare and Danhoff would boost the Knights to a 25-17 victory.
Calvin found its groove in the third set. After dropping the first two points of the set, the Knights used an 11-2 run to take an early lead (11-4); Danhoff had three straight service aces in the effort. The Bulldogs were unable to stop the Knights' widespread offensive attack, and the home team rolled to a 25-11 victory. In the third set, Danhoff had three kills, while Van Laare, Kamp and freshman Ally Fea (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Mechanicsburg HS) each recorded a pair and Lodewyk added one.
In the fifth set, the Knights utilized an early four-point run behind two service aces by junior Kristen Vyletel (Ann Arbor, Mich./ Huron HS) to take a 5-2 lead. Calvin continued to pull ahead, as Anna Kamp put away a kill to win a big rally, earning the Knights a 10-5 advantage and forcing an Adrian timeout. The teams went back-and-forth in scoring with Calvin holding onto its five-point lead. Midway through the set, back-to-back Calvin kills by Van Laare and Danhoff put the Knights up 17-10, but Adrian responded with three straight points to cut the deficit to four.
With the scoreboard reading 17-13, Calvin scored three-consecutive points, followed by a trio of points by Adrian to bring the score to 20-16, still in favor of Calvin. The Knights would only allow the Bulldogs one more point before scoring four straight to take the set, and match.
Calvin's offense was led by Tessa Van Laare who finished with a career-high 15 kills. Danhoff, named the MIAA MVP prior to the match, recorded 13 kills along with five service aces, while DeVries logged 12 kills and four block assists.
"In the first set, we were all kind of in our heads, but as the match went on we started pulling together," said Van Laare.
Jenna Lodewyk, who was named to the CoSIDA NCAA Division III Academic All-District team this past Thursday, pumped out 43 assists in the victory and also had nine digs. Keilahna Castillo led the Knights' defense with a career-high 27 digs, also chipping in six assists.
Tomorrow evening the Knights will continue their quest for a sixth straight MIAA crown. The tournament championship match will feature Calvin and the Flying Dutch of Hope College. Game time is set for 6 p.m.
Prior to Calvin's match Friday evening, the Flying Dutch defeated Saint Mary's (25-16, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22) to claim their spot in the tournament finals, improving to 24-5 on the season.
The two rival teams met twice in the MIAA regular season, with Calvin coming out on top in both matches. In late September, the Knights swept the Dutch 25-20, 25-21, 29-27 at Hope's DeVos Fieldhouse. In its second to last regular season match, Calvin defeated the Dutch in a competitive five-set match (25-14, 19-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-8) to claim the outright MIAA championship. Down two sets to one, the Knights utilized a late forth-set comeback to boost themselves to victory in the final set.