No. 10 Hope Tops Volleyball in MIAA Championship

No. 10 Hope Tops Volleyball in MIAA Championship

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- On Saturday evening at Van Noord Arena, the No. 1 Calvin women's volleyball renewed the rivalry with No. 10 Hope College in the MIAA Tournament finals at Van Noord Arena.

On Friday night in the conference tournament semifinals, the Knights came back from a first-set loss to defeat Adrian 3-1 (23-25, 25-17, 25-11, 25-17) to advance and improve to 27-0 overall. In the other semifinal match, Hope also claimed a 3-1 victory to continue its postseason run, defeating Saint Mary's 25-16, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22 to boost its record to 24-5 overall.

This match marked the third meeting of the season between the Knights and Flying Dutch, with Calvin holding a 2-0 series lead. In the most recent rivalry matchup, the Knights clinched the outright MIAA championship in a competitive five-set match against Hope, downing the Flying Dutch 25-14, 19-25, 20-25, 25-19, 15-8.

Unlike the previous match, it was Hope who walked away with the five-set victory (14-25, 25-22, 25-16, 19-25, 15-13) on Saturday, handing Calvin its first loss of the season to win the MIAA Tournament. With the win, the Flying Dutch punch their ticket to next week's NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament.

"From day one of my coaching career, I have never stressed wins and losses," said head volleyball coach Dr. Amber Warners. "Tonight was not about a win or a loss. It was about what we did on the court. We were off all night and we just kept fighting. That told me a lot. Does it feel good to lose? No, but I think the sting of losing helps motivate. I think it will help us."

 "I thought there were many times that they could've given up or decided to not dig deeper, and they did. That part was very positive," said Warners.

In the set one, behind the serve of junior Kristen Vyletel (Ann Arbor, Mich./Ann Arbor Huron HS), the Knights went on a 5-0 run to take an early 6-2 lead and force a Hope timeout. Following the break, the teams went back-and-forth in scoring, with Calvin hanging on to its four-point lead. An ace by junior setter Jenna Lodewyk (Villa Park, IL/Timothy Christian HS) and a kill by freshman Sarah DeVries (Grand Rapids, Mich./Northpointe Christian HS) fueled another run for Calvin, and the Knights would go up 12-5. Despite kills by Hope's Sarah Feldpausch and Haley Muller, Calvin improved its lead to eight (16-8), forcing Hope to call its second timeout. With the exception of a three-point run, the Flying Dutch were unable to get their offense into rhythm, hitting just .027 in the first set. The Knights would score six consecutive points, capped off by a service ace by Danhoff, to lift them to a 25-14 victory.

The Flying Dutch jumped out to a 4-1 lead early in the second set, but the Knights quickly responded by stringing together four straight points to go up by one. The teams would exchange points, the scoreboard still reading 9-7 in Calvin's favor. However, Hope's offense heated up as it went on a 5-0 run, four of those points coming from kills, to take a 12-9 and force a Calvin timeout. Despite the attempt to halt Hope's momentum, the Flying Dutch would come out of the break to outscore the Knights 5-2 before Calvin called its second timeout. This time, the timeout served its purpose and enabled a seven-point Calvin run to knot the score at 18. However, the Flying Dutch capitalized on a number of Calvin errors to go up 24-19. Backed by two block assists by Sarah DeVries, the Knights claimed three must-win points, but a kill by Hope's Courtney Van Houzen would give the Dutch a 25-22 victory.

Hope carried its momentum into the third set, taking an early 5-2 lead. A trio of Knight kills, courtesy of Danhoff, Anna Kamp (Orland Park, Ill./Chicago Christian HS) and Lodewyk, would Calvin right back in it. Midway through the set, a block by Vanessa Reynhout and a pair of kills by Haley Muller would give the Dutch a 12-7 lead, and Calvin would call timeout. The Knights were unable get any offensive momentum due to Hope's solid blocking performance, down 18-11 when they called their second timeout. Hope would control the remainder of the set, outscoring the Knights 7-5 to take a 25-16 victory.

Calvin scored the first two points of the set four, but Hope responded with a 6-0 run. After a timeout, the Knights began to find their rhythm, going on a 7-1 run before the Dutch would opt for a timeout. The scoreboard read 9-7 in Calvin's favor. The teams went back-and-forth in scoring with Calvin holding onto its advantage. The Knights, holding an 18-16 lead, would score four straight points to go up by six. Hope came back with a pair of big kills, but was unable to overcome the deficit. Anna Kamp hammered down her sixth kill of the match to give Calvin a 25-19 victory and force a fifth set.

In the final set, Hope jumped out to a 3-0 start. Despite some pushback by the Knights, the Dutch held onto their lead (8-5) when the teams switched sides midway through the set. Hope's Sarah Feldpausch would put down a kill, forcing a Calvin timeout. The Knights would claim the next two points, courtesy of kills by DeVries and Kamp to make the score 9-7, still in favor of the visiting team. The teams exchanged points until the scoreboard read 11-9, but the Dutch would use two Calvin errors to take a 13-9 lead.

Following a timeout, the Knights showed resilience, scoring two points off a kill by Van Laare and an ace by Emily Blankespoor (Grand Rapids, Mich./South Christian HS) to make the score 13-11. After a kill by Hope's Courtney Van Houzen, the Knights responded with two points once again, with a kill by Danhoff and an ace by Vyletel. However, Hope's Katie Rietberg and Vanessa Reynhout would block Danhoff's next kill attempt to secure a 15-13 victory to take the match.

Anna Kamp led the Knights with 15 kills, followed by Danhoff who finished with 12 kills as well as four block assists. Jenna Lodewyk dished out 37 assists in the loss, also adding nine digs.

Defensively, Emily Blankespoor led Calvin with 14 digs. Keilahna Castillo (Grandville, Mich./Grandville HS) also dug up 12 balls.

Hope's Katie Rietberg led all players with 16 kills, while Sophia Hackett logged a game-high 44 assists.

"30 hitting errors. I think that has to be our highest of the season," said Warners. "I think that out of 28 matches, that this was our off night. Thankfully, it's not going to cost us much."

Despite the loss, Calvin will await its placement in the upcoming NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament. The bracket will be announced this Monday at 12:30 p.m.