by Alan Babbitt
Outside hitter Ana Grunewald blasted through one of the nation's top blocking volleyball teams.
The sophomore from Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids HS) collected 18 kills to fuel No. 20-ranked Hope College's 25-21, 25-22, 25-15 win at Albion College on Wednesday.
Grunewald, pictured, came within three kills the team record for kills in a three-set match as she helped the Flying Dutch move into sole possession of second place in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association standings.
Hope (14-4, 4-1 MIAA) is next in action on Friday-Saturday, October 18-19 at the Midwest Invitational hosted by Calvin University.
Head coach Becky Schmidt said Grunewald was fearless on the court against an opponent ranked ninth in NCAA Division III in blocks per set.
"I thought when they had the block well-established against her, she mixed up her shots really, really well," Schmidt said. "She used off-speed very effectively. She found a way to use the block and neutralize it. She never backed down. It was one of the most impressive matches I've seen from her."
With 36 attempts and just two attack errors, Grunewald finished with a .444 kill percentage.
Schmidt said Hope's passers and setters worked well together to create ample hitting opportunities.
"We know she has been playing well, so she gets a number of attempts anyway," Schmidt said. "Our setters (Adair Cutler and Tracy Westra) have a really good feel for the match. We're always looking for ways to help her be successful.
"Our passing was really strong. Albion is a good serving team. Our passers really stepped up and gave our setters some options."
Senior libero Gabbi Vachon of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Jenison) totaled 13 digs.
Grunewald also helped her cause with 13 digs.
Sophomore Grace Pettinger of Mount Vernon, Iowa (Mount Vernon) added eight digs against Albion (13-9, 4-2 MIAA).
The Flying Dutch hit .275 as a team.