|Volleyball claims national title|
The long wait for the Calvin women’s volleyball program is over. On a magical Monday afternoon, the Knights captured their first-ever national title, defeating top-ranked Emory University (Ga.) 25-14, 25-20, 19-25, 25-23 in the national final at Washington University of St. Louis. The title came exactly 24 years ago to the very day that the Knights had suffered a heart-breaking five-set defeat in the 1986 national championship final to the University of California at San Diego in front of 3,800 fans at the Calvin Fieldhouse after leading that match two sets to one.
A native of Holland and a graduate of Holland Christian High School, Amber Warners was a starting setter on Calvin’s 1986 national runner-up team. On Nov. 22, Warners led the Knights to the national title as the school’s head coach—a position she has held for the last nine years at her alma mater. Prior to coming to Calvin, Warners served as the head girls’ volleyball coach at Holland Christian High School, where she led the school to a Class B state runner-up finish in 1994.
“Finishing second is a great accomplishment, but finishing first feels a whole lot better,” said Warners in the post-match press conference on Monday. “It feels very very good to be on the winning side in a championship final.”
Ranked 10th nationally, Calvin roared out to a 25-14 first set win, hitting at a sizzling .609 attack percentage. Calvin then won set two behind an 11-6 scoring run after the match had been tied 14-14.
“Our (fast) start was beyond my expectations,” said Warners who was named the Division III National Coach of the Year at the conclusion of the tournament.“Our team came out loose, ready to play and with an aggressive attitude. I think our block (up front) also gave them trouble early on. It forced them (Emory) to make a few adjustments with how they wanted to attack us.”
The top-ranked Eagles made those adjustments and stiffened in set three, keeping Calvin off balance with a strong service attack and lightning-quick passing headlined by 2010 Division III National Player of the Year Amelia McCall. “We knew that Emory was too good of a team not to come back,” said Warners. “Once they made some adjustments, it was a new game, and we had to dig down and start to take some chances.”
Calvin did just that in set four, trailing early but finally taking its first lead of the fourth set on a quick middle attack by junior Renee DeHaan that put the Knights up 15-14. Calvin then used back-to-back kills from sophomore Lizzie Kamp to take a 17-15 lead, but Emory (36-5) clawed back to within a point at 17-16. Calvin was then able to build a 22-19 lead with kills from junior Rebecca Kamp and freshman setter Megan Rietema fueling the late surge. A kill by junior Erin VanderPlas gave Calvin a 23-21 lead, but the Eagles regrouped with a timeout and tied the match at 23 on a kill and a subsequent Calvin ball-handling error.
Calvin responded with a timeout and the Knights responded in clutch fashion as Rietema delivered a cross-court kill to the far corner, setting up championship point. With a national title on the line, Rietema stepped up again, eluding a wall of Emory defenders at the front of the net with a sublime cut shot that landed just inside the near sideline, sending the Knights into a wild celebration.
“Those last two plays were so typical of Megan,” said Warners of her setter who was named Division III National Freshman of the Year during the week of the national finals. “She’s so cool under pressure and rarely does she get flustered. She was ready to make a couple of plays after our timeout. She wasn’t about to buckle under the pressure of the moment.”
Rietema finished the match with eight kills, 37 assists and an attack percentage of .368. She was named to the all-tournament team along with VanderPlas and Rebecca Kamp, with Kamp receiving tournament MVP honors. VanderPlas was huge in the match with 13 kills and a .385 hitting percentage, while DeHaan hit at a .409 clip with 12 kills. Rebecca Kamp came up with 11 kills and four block assists. Sophomore Lizzie Kamp also had seven kills and 14 digs while junior Kelly Peterson had 16 digs and three service aces including a crucial ace down the stretch in set four.
The Calvin win completed a trifecta of victories against highly ranked opponents as the 10th-ranked Knights defeated second-ranked Wittenberg in four sets in the regional final on Nov. 13, followed with a five-set win over third-ranked Juniata in the national semifinals and concluded with the win against number-one ranked Emory.
“We played great teams in the national tournament,” said Rebecca Kamp, “But we wanted to show everyone that we have a great team, too. We felt that we weren’t getting the kind of respect we deserved this weekend and that fired us up. We came in with an aggressive attitude, with the idea of letting everyone know what Calvin College volleyball is all about.”
The national title is the ninth in Calvin’s athletics history, joining the four national titles won by its men’s cross country team and two each by its women’s cross country and men’s basketball teams.
Giving to Calvin
Majors & Minors
People at Calvin