by Alan Babbitt
Gabbi Vachon dug in and helped the first day of the Midwest Invitational finish successfully for the Hope College volleyball team.
The senior libero from Grand Rapids, Michigan (Jenison HS) set a team record with 31 digs during a three-set win against Elmhurst College (Illinois) on Friday at Calvin University.
Hope, ranked No. 20 in this week's American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll, went 2-0 on the day. The Flying Dutch also defeated Ithaca College (N.Y.) in four sets.
On Saturday, Hope (16-4 overall) concludes the two-day tournament with a 12:30 p.m. match against third-ranked Carthage College (Wisconsin).
Head coach Becky Schmidt said Vachon, pictured, shined defensively during a 25-23, 25-17, 25-16 victory against Elmhurst (8-17).
"She played very, very disciplined. She was covering the court extremely well and made a lot of plays possible," Schmidt said. "I think our blockers did a nice job of directing balls over to her and getting touches on some balls that slowed them down a little bit."
With a career-high matching 31 digs, Vachon surpassed Hope's team record for digs in a three-set match using a 25-point set.
Two players shared the previous record of 29: Kristin Johnson in 2009 vs. Millikin (Illinois) and Jessica Maier in 2012 vs. Wittenberg (Ohio).
Hope recorded 80 digs as a team — its second-highest total of the season and only 11 fewer than the 91 totaled during a four-set victory against Aurora University (Illinois) on September 21.
"Both teams played really good cross-court defense," Schmidt said. "For the outside hitters, being able to put balls away was really difficult. It was going back-and-forth. We did a good job of keeping the court in front of us, then going after those balls."
Sophomore outside hitter Ana Grunewald topped the Flying Dutch with 14 kills in 44 attempts. Sophomore middle hitter McKenna Otto of Wheaton, Illiinois (Wheaton North) chipped in 12 kills in 32 attempts.
Freshman outside hitter Jenna Core of Spring Lake, Michigan (Spring Lake) added eight kills in 18 attempts.
Hope hit .213 as a team while Elmhurst finished .101.
Against Ithaca, the Flying Dutch won 25-17, 25-20, 17-25, 25-19 behind 11 kills in 27 attempts from Otto and 10 kills in 42 attempts from Grunewald.
Hope collected 55 digs against Ithaca (13-6), including 16 from Vachon, 14 from Grunewald and 11 from sophomore Grace Pettinger of Mount Vernon, Iowa (Mount Vernon).