2,725 on Hand to Watch Hope Rally, Downing Down Rival Calvin in Five Sets
Grand Rapids, MI - The Hope College volleyball team relied on its serve to short-circuit its rival's record-setting home-court advantage and bid to even the league standings.
Quieting an electric, pro-Calvin College crowd of 2,725, the Flying Dutch dominated the final two games Wednesday to pull off a 25-22, 22-25, 25-27, 25-12, 15-6 victory.
Hope, ranked No. 5 in the NCAA Division III coaches poll, clinched at least a share of the regular-season Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association title by improving its league record to 14-0 with two matches remaining.
The Flying Dutch (24-2 overall) also secured the top seed for next week's conference tournament.
"There was no magic word," Hope coach Becky Schmidt said when asked what was said in the team's huddle after the third game. "The biggest thing wasn't talked about. Our serving became much more aggressive. It was much more focused.
"We were much more deliberate with what we were doing with the ball. It put Calvin on the defensive early in every rally."
The MIAA championship is the second in a row for Hope and ninth overall. The Flying Dutch can clinch the title outright by winning Friday at Trine (Ind.) University or if Calvin loses to Olivet College.
The Flying Dutch, named the top seed in the Great Lakes Region this week, jumped out to an 8-3 lead in Game 4 and seized control for the rest of the match.
In a tougher match than a Sept. 26 three-game sweep of Calvin, desperation forced Hope to focus more, outside hitter Sara DeWeerdt said.
"Game 4 was pretty much all or nothing. We had to lay it all out on the line," said DeWeerdt, a junior from Hamilton. "It is tough after such a close loss (in Game 3), but it makes you want it more."
Calvin coach Amber Warners pointed to Hope's serving as a big factor in the swift turnaround.
"We didn't get the passes we needed to run all three hitters," Warners said after her 13th-ranked team dropped to 12-2 in the MIAA and 20-6 overall. "It went back to the aggressive serving that took us out of our game. We couldn't run anything quick tempo.
"It's amazing how much better the blocking is when you can predict where the set's going. Hope did a super job of serving at us aggressively. We did not pass well to sustain offense, which creates all kinds of problems."
The Flying Dutch overwhelmed Calvin with 73 kills, including a match-high 21 from Cassidy Bulthuis and 17 from Jacie Fiedler. Teammates Kara VandeGuchte, also from Hamilton and DeWeerdt, added 13 and 11 kills, respectively.
The Knights managed only 49 kills. Rebecca Kamp had 16.
Hope also recorded 91 digs, 30 more than Calvin. Five players reached double-digits in that category, and Kristen Johnson led the Flying Dutch with 20.
Calvin's crowd surpassed Hope's previous record of 2,307 during a 2008 match at DeVos Fieldhouse against the Knights.
Article courtesy the Holland Sentinel.