Total Team Effort Lifts Volleyball to Two More Wins, Goes Undefeated at Midwest Invite

by Eva Dean Folkert

Grace Ditzenberger poses for a portrait in uniform. After losing the first two sets of the day, the Hope College volleyball team went on a five-set winning streak and, in the process, went undefeated at a weekend tournament for the third time this season.

In their first match of the day at the Midwest Invitational at Calvin College on Saturday, the No. 16 Flying Dutch downed No. 19 Ohio Northern University in five sets, 25-27, 24-26, 25-21, 26-24, 15-10, then took a short break before defeating Susquehanna University (Pennsylvania) in straight sets, 25-20, 25-23, 25-12.

The two non-league victories advance Hope's record to 20-4.

The Flying Dutch looked forward to a rematch with ONU (15-6) who beat Hope a month ago at the Millikin University (Illinois) Invitational. Though the first two sets were tightly contested between the two teams, the Polar Bears looked as though they might deal Hope another defeat by jumping out to a 2-0 set lead. The tenacious and focused Flying Dutch struck with their total team effort and rallied to win the last three sets and the match in two hours and 10 minutes of play.

The Flying Dutch are now 4-2 in five-set matches.

Hope out-hit ONU by percentage in every set, had more kills (68-62) and took the advantage in blocks (16-8) and assists (64-59), as well.

As it was the night before in another avenging win over No. 7 Thomas More who also had previously beaten the Flying Dutch, kill attempts and completions were spread out. Four Hope players finished with double-digit kills: freshman McKenna Otto of Wheaton, Illinois (Wheaton North HS) led the way with 16, seniors Katie Rietberg of Holland (West Ottawa HS) and Grace Ditzenberger of Centennial, Colorado (Chaparral HS) added 13 each, and sophomore Rose Thompson of Coopersville (Unity Christian HS) recorded 10.

Those four players accounted for 76% of the team's kill total. Additionally, the Flying Dutch committed fewer errors at the net (21 on 205 attempts) compared to the Polar Bears, who had 34 errors on 207 attempts.

Ditzenberger, pictured, also set a school record with 12 blocks against Ohio Northern. It is the most number of blocks by a Hope player in any length of match played to a 25-point set.

The 12 blocks tied for the second-most by any Division III player this season, according to the NCAA statistical leaders posted on Thursday.

Freshman setter Tracy Westra of Clarendon Hills, Illinois (Timothy Christian) tallied 31 assists while sophomore setter Adair Cutler of Lansing (East Lansing HS) contributed 21.

Though the Flying Dutch were out-dug by ONU (100-93), five Hope players kept the ball in play with 74 total digs between them: junior Gabbi Vachon of Grand Rapids (Jenison HS) with 22, senior Emily Farwell of Lowell (Forest Hills Central) with 15, junior Jenna VanderLaan of Grand Rapids (South Christian HS) with 13, and Cutler and freshman Ana Grunewald of Grand Rapids (East Grand Rapids HS) with 12 each.

In their last match at the Midwest Invite, the Flying Dutch dispatched Susquehanna (19-10) somewhat quickly. The hour-and-ten-minute match saw a few more errors than the tired Flying Dutch are accustomed to, they still outhit their opponent, .195 to .067. Ditzenberger and Otto went one-two in kills with 12 and 11, respectively. Setters Cutler and Westra again delivered the most assists, with 22 and 19 respectively, and Vachon tallied the most digs with 22. 

Hope is back in MIAA action on Tuesday, Oct. 16 when the Flying Dutch face Saint Mary's College at 7:00 p.m. in DeVos Fieldhouse.