by Greg Chandler
The Hope College volleyball team battled back from a two-set deficit to force a fifth and deciding set with archrival Calvin College Saturday night. The Flying Dutch's comeback bid fell short, though, as the unbeaten Knights prevailed, 25-16, 25-23, 19-25, 23-25, 15-7, in front of more than 2,100 fans at Van Noord Arena.
The Flying Dutch, ranked 13th in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll, fell to 11-2 overall and 1-1 in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Calvin, which is ranked No. 1 in the AVCA poll, won its MIAA opener and improved to 12-0 overall.
Calvin dominated the early stages of the match, limiting Hope to a .030 hitting percentage in the first set, then jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the second set. However, the Flying Dutch scrapped their way back into the match, taking their first lead of the night at 16-15 on a kill by junior outside hitter Ryann Stutz of Kalamazoo, Michigan (Parchment HS).
"As is often the case, these matches come down to serve and pass," Hope coach Becky Schmidt said. "When we were passing and serving tough, we were creating more opportunities for ourselves and making it a little bit harder for Calvin to attack into our defense."
The Knights came back to win the second set, but the momentum swung to the Flying Dutch in the third set. A run of five consecutive points, highlighted by a pair of service aces by sophomore setter Adair Cutler of East Lansing, Michigan (Lansing Christian HS), gave Hope a 12-7 lead. Later, freshman Ana Grunewald of Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids HS), pictured above, had four kills during another five-point Hope run that helped the Flying Dutch take the set, 25-19.
"I thought when Ana got in, she did a fantastic job of being able to mix up some of the shots we were giving them when we were out of system," Schmidt said.
The fourth set was a back-and-forth affair. Trailing 9-6 at one point, Hope went on a 8-2 run, fueled by four kills by senior outside hitter Katie Rietberg of Holland, Michigan (West Ottawa HS), to take a 14-11 lead. A pair of Hope service errors late helped Calvin pull within one point, but Grunewald drove home a kill off a Calvin block attempt to send the match to a fifth set.
In the final set, Calvin ran off four straight points early to take a 6-2 lead, and Hope got no closer than three points the rest of the way.
Despite the loss, Schmidt was pleased with the grit her team showed.
"That first set was not indicative of the style of volleyball that we want to play," she said. "I was really happy with the resolve that we showed as that match continued, to continue to battle and to fight."
Grunewald led Hope with 12 kills and 12 digs in her first Hope-Calvin match. Rietberg added 11 kills, freshman middle hitter McKenna Otto of Wheaton, Illinois (Wheaton North HS) had 10 kills, and freshman setter Tracy Westra of Clarendon Hills, Illinois (Timothy Christian HS) had nine kills in 13 attempts for a .692 hitting percentage to go along with 15 assists. Cutler served up five aces and dished out 22 assists for the match.
Calvin had 11 blocks for the match to Hope's four, and outhit the Flying Dutch, .280 to .179. Senior Anna Kamp led the Knights with 19 kills and 21 digs, while junior Sarah DeVries added 16 kills and 26 assists.
Saturday's match was the 99th volleyball meeting in "The Rivalry" with Calvin. The Knights lead the series 69-30 and have won the last six meetings dating back to 2016.
Hope and Calvin meet again October 26 at DeVos Fieldhouse, but the match will be a non-conference contest. The MIAA went to a single-round format to determine the league champion this year.