By Lenny Padilla
McKenna Otto has only been at Hope College for two years, but she's already embraced the Hope-Calvin rivalry.
"It's so fun," said Otto, a sophomore from Wheaton, Illinois (Wheaton North HS). "I get so pumped up every time we get to play them. It's really cool, especially in DIII, to have this opportunity to play in front of that many people and have that many people care about a DIII volleyball game. It's really special."
It wasn't the outcome that the Flying Dutch were looking for, however. No. 3-ranked Calvin University beat No. 10 Hope 3-1 on Saturday evening in the championship match of the MIAA Tournament in front of a Van Noord Arena crowd of 1,433.
Calvin won the first set 25-18 before Hope tied it up 1-1 (25-16). But it was all Knights after that with winning sets of 25-10 and 25-16.
Hope (22-6 overall) will have to wait to see it receives an at-large berth when the field is announced on Monday, November 11 at 12:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.
"Defensively, they made life very difficult for us," Hope coach Becky Schmidt said. "Their diggers created lots of opportunities for them to be able to get the ball to (Sarah) DeVries. They played like their record would indicate. They have a lot of weapons and we struggled to be able to defend those and get into a rhythm offensively."
Calvin (23-2) earned an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
"Becky does a tremendous job," Calvin coach Amber Warners said. "She gets her kids ready to play. I thought they came in here fierce and passed really well in the beginning of the match and took us out of what we wanted to do at times. They're a very good team."
Otto said she was happy with Hope's effort but not the result.
"Our defense was working hard, but we weren't getting in system like we wanted to," Otto said. "We weren't putting balls away like we can."
"I'm really proud of this team," Schmidt said. "I'm proud of the body of work that we've put together. We are a team that is capable of playing with the best in the country and that means that we are a team that is capable of being able to win a national championship."
But Hope will need some help to get that chance.
"The NCAA has some decisions to make," Schmidt said. "The Great Lakes region is incredibly difficult, in terms of the amount of talent, top to bottom. I hope the NCAA sees that strength and the strength that our team has played with throughout the season."
Hope and Calvin split the regular-season meetings. Sophomore outside hitter Molly Ligon of Beverly Hills, Michigan (Birmingham Seaholm) said Calvin switched things up since Hope beat them, 3-1, on Oct. 25.
"I think they mixed up their lineup a little bit and that threw us off," Ligon said. "We had trouble adjusting with our block and our defense. I think we were in system the last match that we played (Calvin)."