By Alan Babbitt
A little more unpredictably made all the difference for the Hope College volleyball team against upset-minded Saint Mary's College.
The 13th-ranked Flying Dutch earned a hard-fought 22-25, 26-24, 27-25, 25-15 victory at home Tuesday behind serving stronger and diversified offense.
Six different Hope players recorded at least eight kills for Hope (21-4 overall) during the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association match. Freshman McKenna Otto of Wheaton, Illinois (Wheaton North), pictured, led the attack with 15 kills.
"In the first set, we were a little bit our typical selves in being a little too left-side dominant," head coach Becky Schmidt said. "Saint Mary's does a really nice job of playing defense against left-side attack. The service pressure picked up in the second set. That got Saint Mary's out of system a little bit. In the second, third and fourth sets, we were able to mix up our offense a lot more and get the ball to our middles in lots of different type of situations as well as to our right-side."
The Flying Dutch rallied past an opponent that pushed top-ranked Calvin College to five sets last week.
Hope needed a run of four points to finish the second set and even the match at one set apiece. Katie Rietberg's kill and service ace fended off two set points.
The Flying Dutch then took the set with a block by senior Grace Ditzenberger of Centennial, Colorado (Chaparral HS) and senior Emily Farwell of Lowell, Michigan (Forest Hills Central) for one point and a kill from freshman Ana Grunewald of Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids).
Hope overcame a 20-18 deficit during the third set. The score was tied five times before the Flying Dutch grabbed a 2-1 set lead with a kill from Grunewald and a block from Otto.
In the fourth set, Hope scored the first two points and never trailed.
Ditzenberger totaled 11 kills and seven total blocks. Grunewald and freshman Tracy Westra of Clarendon Hills, Illinois (Timothy Christian) each chipped in 10 kills. Westra also had a team-best 26 assists.
Rietberg, a senior from Holland, Michigan (West Ottawa HS. and Ryann Stutz, a junior from Kalamazoo, Michigan (Parchment), recorded eight kills apiece. Farwell collected a team-high 24 digs.
The Flying Dutch are now 5-1 in MIAA matches with two remaining. Calvin (6-0 MIAA) and Alma College (6-1) are vying for the top two seeds in the MIAA Tournament and first-round byes that go to those teams. Saint Mary's is 10-15 overall and 1-5 in MIAA play.
Hope returns to action on Saturday, October 23 with two matches at the Elmhurst College (Illinois) Invitational.