Calvin volleyball to play for second national title in three years
This article was updated at 11:38 p.m.
Calvin’s women’s volleyball team is looking to finish its march to a national championship Saturday night in the NCAA D-III finals.
No. 1 Calvin will take on No. 8 St. Thomas at 7 p.m. in the championship match at DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland, Mich.
With the national tournament hosted so close to Calvin, many students and members of the Calvin community have been able to travel to support the Knights.
“[They are] such a huge part of who we are this season. It’s just another weapon that we have this year. We love taking advantage of it,” said senior Lizzie Kamp.
The Calvin alumni association is partnering with Nite Life to host a pre-game tailgate party at 5 p.m. in Holland. The event will feature free hotdogs and chip, music, games and entertainment for students.
The Knights clinched a spot in the title game with a 3-1 victory over last year’s runner-up Christopher Newport on Friday: 25-19, 25-21, 23-25, 25-16.
A crowd of more than 2,000 people made the trip to Holland to watch the Knights down the Captains in the second of two semifinal matchups. St. Thomas (Minn.) swept Elmhurst 3-0 in the first match.
Lizzie Kamp and her sister, freshman Maggie Kamp, both led the team with 15 kills apiece.
“Our whole goal this season has been to take it one game at a time and we focused on just this game today,” said Maggie. “Now that we can focus on what we’ve been working for all year, its just so exciting.”
Head coach Amber Warners, who also led Calvin to the title game in 2010, was pleased with her team’s effort.
“I was happy with how aggressive we were off our serve,” she said. “I was proud of our intensity and how we played in each point. The way we lost last year really taught the players something: to just put it all out there.”
Junior setter Megan Reitema tallied 40 assists while middle hitter Julia Hilbrands held the center of the court steady.
“I think we played really well — maybe the best we played all year,” said Hilbrands.
She was also quick to acknowledge the impact of Calvin’s large student section.
“They’ve been so great on this tournament run and I think they’re carrying us and giving us energy and we feed off that.”
Christopher Newport head coach Lindsay Birch was extremely impressed with the Knights’ performance.
“Calvin is just an unbelievable team. [They have] great athletes, great size and great coaches,” she stated. “We’ve played D-I teams in the spring for years and still no one is like them.”
Calvin’s president, Michael Le Roy, enjoyed taking in the action, but was quick to admit the match wasn’t smooth sailing the entire way.
“I called it ‘heart attack volleyball’ a little bit,” he said as he laughed. “CNU had outstanding defense … and they fought really hard but our team remained really patient and I was impressed with that.”
Warners was reminded of her team’s run to the title two years ago and was asked what was different about this year.
“This is a totally different team. We don’t want to try to simulate two years ago. We have to bring our own personality out,” she stated.
“This just feels like a normal tournament because we’re at Hope. I keep thinking about getting through this weekend then what’s next weekend. We have to keep that mentality. Tomorrow should be no different: we have to come ready to play.”
The final game of Calvin’s season is slated for Saturday evening, when the Knights will try to reclaim the championship.