Women’s Volleyball Bows Out of NCAA III Tournament in First Round
Thursday, November 13, 2008
By Chaz Amidon
OSHKOSH, Wis. – Trailing 24-12 in the fourth set, one point away from elimination, Lauren DeGroot sends her second-to-last collegiate serve over the net.
It is an ace, searing down the heart of the UW-Whitewater defense. Her last ace. The Knights are far out of reach, but she doesn’t know it. She still fights.
The waning moments of Calvin’s first-round loss to the No. 15 Warhawks – NCAA-III champions in 2002 and 2005 – exemplified a season of that fight, whether it was battling opponents or themselves, injuries of inexperience.
Losing in four sets (18-25, 25-22, 18-25, 14-25), the Knights’ 15-game win streak was erased, as was their winning record against Top 25 teams. Still, No. 12 Calvin ended the ended the 2008 season 26-5 and erased early-season skepticism about its consistency.
“It’s hard to see the big picture, but we’re certainly disappointed,” said coach Amber Warners. “I keep reminding myself and the players that we’ve had a phenomenal year.”
After dropping the first set, Calvin bit back in the second, rallying from behind and stringing together a 6-2 run to even up the score, 1-1, against a UW-Whitewater program that has made six Final Four appearances since 2000.
The Knights used that second-set momentum to jump out to an 8-5 lead in the third, but the Warhawks went on a 14-2 run, building a commanding lead that the third-place squad from the WIAC would not surrender for the entirety of the match.
“It was disappointing, but if we lost to a team we didn’t deserve to lose to, it’d be worse,” said DeGroot. “They are an under ranked team.”
On the heels of a nine-day layoff, Calvin’s last game was played against Kalamazoo in the opening round of the MIAA Tournament back on Nov. 4. Hope, the outright MIAA champions who also had a nine-day break, wilted in a five-set loss to Heidelberg on Thursday night.
According to Warners, both MIAA squads had difficulty adjusting to the up-tempo play that they encountered in the NCAA-III Tournament.
“I think we looked a little bit rusty, a step too slow,” said Warners. “I think having nine days off really hurt us.”
Freshman Rebecca Kamp, who was named the MIAA MVP on Monday, led Calvin with 21 kills and three block assists. In doing so, she entered Calvin record books by reestablishing new single-season records for hitting percentage (.400) and kills-per-set (4.87) – the latter of which was the nation’s second-best mark during the 2008 season.
Kamp shattered Christine Veltman’s previous record for hitting percentage (.395) while breaking Calvin assistant coach Molley Krikke’s record for kills (4.79).
“The future is bright for us,” said Warners. “If we get a few more players in that can help replace the seniors, the sky’s the limit for the next group.”
Rachel DeYoung and Sara Kramer each added six kills in defeat, and Erin VandePlas chipped in five. DeGroot, a former MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, totaled 33 assists in her final collegiate match.
DeGroot was the last of a trio of sisters who completed four-year stints playing volleyball for Calvin. Her departure after the 2008 season now caps a 12-year period with at least one DeGroot sister playing for the Knights.
“It hasn’t hit me yet because I haven’t gotten ready to go back to practice tomorrow,” said DeGroot, who holds Calvin’s single-season record for digs (727). “Obviously I’m sad and of course I wanted it all this year, but it didn’t happen.”
Calvin’s loss to UW-Whitewater signified the only time that Warners’ Knights dropped an NCAA-III first-round match throughout the past five seasons. The Knights fell to Carthage – the No. 2 team in the UW-Oshkosh Region – in the second round of last year’s tournament, while they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 2005 and 2006 and fell, both times, to Wittenberg, a team that is hosting regional action this weekend as well.
Making their 18th NCAA-III Tournament appearance, Calvin now has a record of 19-20 in national postseason play, dating back to the 1984 season – Warners’ first year as a setter for the Knights. They would finish fourth that year, and would return back to the Final Four to claim national runners-up honors in 1986.
“They will. I keep thinking that as I get older the losing gets easier, but it doesn’t,” said Warners. “I’m really proud of the way they didn’t get angry with each other out on the court. I think they represented God and our college extremely well throughout the season.”
The Knights, who will also lose seniors Jessica Garlick and Stacie Lippert in this coming offseason, finished 2008 with a 4-4 record against ranked opponents. Calvin’s key wins came against No. 5 Wittenberg, No. 8 Ohio Northern (twice), and No. 17 Hope.