Knights lose national championship game to University of St. Thomas

Photo by Megan Meulink
Photo by Megan Meulink
They were close, but close isn’t good enough. The Knights were unable to claim the national title at Hope College’s DeVos Fieldhouse, falling to University of St. Thomas (UST) in 5 sets.In front of a NCAA III Finals record crowd of 3,517, St. Thomas made a comeback that very few in the building thought possible after Calvin won the first two sets 25-13, 25-17. UST went on to stun the top-ranked Knights by winning the final three sets 25-18, 25-16, 15-9.

“This sport is one where momentum can shift very quickly,” said Calvin’s head coach Amber Warners. “Sometimes you can’t turn it around.”

The Knights came out looking composed and in control. Their attack percentage in the first set was a stellar .458 compared to UST’s .103.

The capacity crowd, largely composed of Calvin supporters, contributed to the strong start.

“[The crowd] was definitely to our advantage,” said sophomore middle hitter Emily Crowe. “I love when they’re there.”

UST head coach Thanh Pham said that the crowd prevented his team from becoming comfortable on the court.

“The crowd was very, very intimidating,” he said.

Junior Megan Rietema also appreciated the Calvin supporters, but knew that the winner is not always the team with the loudest crowd.

“When it comes down to it, it’s us on the court and we’ve got to do it,” she said.

The Knights continued to play efficient volleyball as they hit a .467 clip in the second set.

After Calvin routinely did away with UST in the first two sets, it seemed that the game would be over quickly; however, he third set finally saw UST wake up with Sara Atkinson laying down hard kills that caused the Knights all sorts of problems.

“They played extremely well and it flipped,” said Warners about the third set. “It happens in this sport and that’s to their credit. We had a hard time bouncing back.”

Pham said that getting comfortable in the hostile environment was the key to UST’s comeback.

“We knew that wasn’t us out there,” he said about the first two sets. “We just had to find ourselves and find a way to fight through it.”

The Knights could not regain their early form and played the remainder of the match desperately searching for a way to break UST’s defense.

Warners said that she had talked to the team about staying in the present moment, and believed the team played well in their system, but that they just couldn’t answer the swing.

“If there’s been one issue with this team, it’s getting them to believe how good they actually are,” said Warners. “We have very humble athletes that don’t always know their talent.”

President Le Roy, also in attendance, was proud of the Knights for their efforts.

“I’m so proud of these women. They were so impressive. They never gave up and they were so positive on the court,” he said. “I’m sad, but somebody had to win and somebody had to lose.”
Crowe led Calvin in the championship game with 14 kills and 18 digs hitting a .407 clip. Lizzie Kamp contributed 12 kills and 18 digs while Rietema had 45 assists – all three were named to the all-tournament team.

Calvin’s volleyball talent has shined this season as the Knights finish with an overall record of 33-3. The senior class of Kim Start, Lizzie Kamp, Jen Pluymert, Julia Hilbrands, Kelly Gordon, Becca Ratkov and Megan Korber are graduating as the most successful in program history with a career record of 124-15.

About the Author

Justin Vanden Ende

Justin Vanden Ende is a Chimes on-call writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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