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Volleyball and engineering provide unique mix for Calvin junior
By Lynn Bolt Rosendale
Kristin DeGroot
Kristin DeGroot (Tulare, Calif.)

Playing the underdog role doesn’t bother Kristin DeGroot. “I think the reason we did so well was our ‘underdog attitude,’” said the Calvin junior from Tulare, Calif. DeGroot is referring to the volleyball team’s run at the MIAA championship, despite losing most of the previous year’s starting line-up to graduation.

“We lost a lot of powerhouse seniors,” she said. “No one expected anything from us. That’s what gave us our drive in the beginning.”

With no expectations to worry about, the Knights quickly became one of the teams to worry about in the MIAA.

“Halfway through the season we had to reset our goals,” said DeGroot. “We talked about how far we could go. That gave us something to work towards, some direction.”

Beating Central College in the middle of September helped the Knights build confidence. “They were ranked second in the nation at the time,” said DeGroot. “We were a nobody.”

While the Calvin team didn’t reach the ultimate goal of winning the MIAA championship and a bid to the national tournament, DeGroot believes the team built a strong foundation for next year.

As a senior next year, DeGroot will lead the returning players in hopes of a return to their MIAA championship form of two years ago.

“My goal is to get into the NCAA tournament next year,” she said. “It was good to get a taste of that as a freshman. I would like to have the chance to do that again.”

One spot the Knights have to fill is that of defensive specialist Trisha Balkema, who is graduating in May. As the team’s second-leading digger this year with 516 digs, DeGroot wouldn’t mind taking on that role. While not a glamorous role, DeGroot enjoys it, she said.

This year, DeGroot played outside hitter, averaging just over one kill a game, with 140.

Off the court, DeGroot is challenged by her engineering major. “I want to design cars,” she said.

DeGroot admits this is a unique choice for a woman. “Most of my classmates are guys,” she said. “There are usually only one or two girls in the class.”

She said that engineering is in her blood, though. “My dad used to be an engineer, and my brother is an engineer,” she said. “My dad encouraged me to go for it. He said that if you can do it, you should reach for the highest goal possible. I’m trying to do that by getting the most out of college.”

Added to her mechanical engineering major is a Spanish minor. “In California, where I’m from, 50 percent of the population is Hispanic,” she said. “Knowing the Spanish language is recommended now and will be necessary later. It’s such a universal language and can be used in so many places.”

This challenging mix of academics and athletics is what DeGroot has come to like about Calvin, she said. “You need to be committed and driven in both aspects,” she said. “The vision is good. Coaches here value academics, but they still push you to your limit. And doing that within a Christian perspective is so meaningful. It’s easy to let it be all about you, but in devotions one time this year we talked about doing it with the right attitude. Our motto became, ‘Play to make God smile.’ I think that puts it all in perspective.