by Eva Dean Folkert
Playing a single match on their season's opening night, the Hope volleyball team bested preseason-ranked Berry (Ga.) College in three sets, 26-24, 25-19 and 25-14, in the Transylvania University Tournament in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday.
Berry, champions of the Southern Athletic Association last season and advancers to the round of 16 in the 2017 NCAA Division III tournament, entered the season ranked No. 25 by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). The Flying Dutch started the season unranked.
Hope played from behind for much of the beginning of the first set. Berry led 11-6, but the Flying Dutch eventually pulled even at 16-16. The rest of the set would remain tightly contested and with the score 24-24, newcomer McKenna Otto of Wheaton, Illinois (Wheaton North) blocked a Viking kill shot. On the next point, the freshman then recorded one of her seven kills, giving Hope the 26-24 first-set win.
In set two, Hope again played a tad from behind early as the Vikings held an advantage as late as 13-10. Hope evened the score 14-14 and from there went onto lead the rest of the way.
Set three was completely dominated by the Flying Dutch as they held the lead from the first serve.
Hope had an impressive .312 hitting percentage for the match. Senior outside hitter Katie Rietberg of Holland (West Ottawa), pictured, led the Flying Dutch with 15 kills and a .378 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Ryann Stutz of Kalamazoo (Parchment) and junior outside hitter Rose Thompson of Coopersville (Unity Christian) contributed eight kills each with .375 and .333 hitting percentages, respectively.
Sophomore setter Adair Cutler of East Lansing (Lansing Christian) covered much of the court offensively and defensively for Hope, leading with 29 assists and 11 digs. Junior Gabbi Vachon of Grand Rapids (Jenison) added 10 digs.
"I was quite happy with how the team adjusted to different lineups and different roles tonight," said head coach Becky Schmidt. "Once we got a rhythm, we played really good volleyball. The defense kept the ball off the floor and we got some nice digs."
"I also felt Katie (Rietberg) established herself as a formidable threat on the left side," Schmidt continued, "and Rose (Thompson) has been stepping up this season and is becoming much more consistent, making adjusts and finding ways to score."
Schmidt added that the Flying Dutch will look to create more offensive balance by hitting in the middle with added frequency. This will especially be needed on Saturday when Hope plays host Transylvania at 10:00 a.m. and perennial powerhouse Washington University in St. Louis at 2:00 p.m.
"Saturday will a big day of good volleyball against two very strong opponents," Schmidt concluded.