Volleyball Advances to National Title Match With Thrilling Comeback Win Over Juniata in Semis
Saturday, November 20, 2010
(Written by Sports Information Student Assistant Mitch Blankespoor)
(Photo by Danny Reise)
ST. LOUIS, MO - The Calvin College Knights had been in this position before. The Knights had a 1-2 record all-time in the national semifinals with the only win coming in 1986. In 1992, Calvin was in the national semifinals in Saint Louis. The University of Washington at St. Louis defeated Calvin. 18 years later Calvin was in the same spot. This time around, Calvin defeated third ranked Juniata in dramatic come-from-behind fashion to defeat the Eagles in five sets by scores of 14-25, 17-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-12.
The first set started with each team trading side outs to a score from 5-5. Then Juniata outside hitter Drew Barnhart stepped up to the service line. She rattled off nine straight points for the Eagles.
Three of those points were aces. Of the eight serves, four of them hit the top of the net and fell over. This forced Calvin head coach Amber Warners to call a timeout with the scoreboard reading 14-5 Juniata. The Eagles came out of the timeout call by Calvin and never looked back closing out the first set.
The second set started out in similar fashion to the first set; each team was deadlocked at six. Juniata senior setter and first team All-American Steph Strauss scored three straight points on the serve. Teams traded side outs until Rebecca Kamp had a service ace to tie the game at 15-15. Strauss came up to serve again, and rattled off another six straight points for the Eagles. One more kill from Drew Barnhart gave Juniata the second set.
Juniata came out fired up for the third set. They opened up on 6-1 run forcing another timeout from Warners. Barnhart stepped up to serve a couple of points later and added cushion to the Eagles lead. Calvin called another timeout with the Eagles up 16-8.
The Knights were up against the wall. They were down two sets to nothing, and Juniata was nine points from ending Calvin’s season a game short of the national championship. The Knights could have respectfully bowed out, but instead they decided to dig their teeth into the match. The Knights traded points at a 2:1 ratio behind come kills from Rebecca Kamp and Erin Vander Plas. The scoreboard read 21-19 in favor of Juniata. Then freshmen Kristi Zietse stepped up to the service line. She came up huge for Calvin in the regional finals against Wittenberg serving out the first and fourth sets when the Knights were down 23-21.
“It takes a lot of focus to get the ball over the net. You just have to follow your own routine” Zietse said about serving.
She served four straight points for Calvin to give the Knights a 22-21 lead. Kills by Lizzie and Rebecca Kamp gave the Knights the third set.
With that new found momentum, Calvin got out to a 6-0 lead in the fourth set with Lizzie Kamp at the service line. Juniata head coach Larry Bock called a timeout. This seemed to work as Juniata used service runs from Taylor Harpster and Steph Strauss to take a 16-12 lead. Calvin answered back with runs from Megan Rietema and Jen Pluymert to win the fourth set with a Rebecca Kamp kill to end it.
“We were down, but not out. We played with a ton of heart” Rebecca Kamp said after the match.
With both teams dead-locked at two sets apiece, a first-to-fifteen fifth set needed to be played. Juniata got off to a good start winning four of the first five points. Just like they had done all day, the Knights fought back from the deficit to take a 14-10 lead. Calvin now had four match points; four chances to advance to the national championship. Taylor Harpster served an ace. Drew Barnhart recorded a kill. Two of the four match points were fought off by Juniata. They would not win the next. After an antagonizing, long rally, Megan Rietema tipped over off the block of the Eagles. The ball hit the court. The Knights had advanced to the national championship.
“My main job is to set the ball to our hitters so they can get all the kills, but my height can be used to our team’s advantage” Rietema said.
Statistically both teams were dead even. Calvin hit a .291 clip compared to Juniata hitting .251. Through the first two sets, Juniata hit .403 and Calvin hit .160. Calvin had 13 total team blocks. Juniata had five. Juniata had 16 service aces to go along with only eight errors. Calvin had four aces and five service errors.
Individually Calvin was led by Rebecca Kamp and Erin Vander Plas recording 17 and 13 kills respectively. Megan Rietema dished out 38 assists for Calvin to go along with six blocks. Rebecca Kamp had 10 blocks. Juniata had four players recording double digit kills. Drew Barnhart led the Eagles with 19 kills. Senior Steph Strauss dished out 53 assists and had eight kills.
“I thought it was a very courageous, gutsy performance. The players literally took it one point at a time. I’m very proud of the way they played with heart tonight” Warners said of her team.
Calvin will move onto the national championship game where #1 ranked Emory University will be waiting for them. Emory defeated rival Washington University in four sets. The match will take place at 2PM Central Standard Time.