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crowd at DeVos Fieldhouse of 3,517.
13-25, 17-25, 25-18, 25-16, 15-9
The Tommies, who won their last 35 matches in a row, became the first team from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to win the national championship in volleyball. They finished the year 40-1, while the Knights, champions of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, finished at 33-3.
The match was played in front of 3,517 fans, the vast majority of them from Calvin, whose campus is less than 40 miles from Hope College’s DeVos Fieldhouse. The previous attendance record for a national championship match was 3,423 in 1991, when Washington University-St. Louis defeated UC-San Diego for the Division III title in St. Louis, Mo.
“To be down two sets, in that environment, and to be able to pull out the win speaks volumes about our girls and how much they wanted it,” St. Thomas coach Thanh Pham said. “They’re just fighters. They fought through it. I couldn’t be more proud.”
The Knights, who were seeking their second national championship in three years, dominated the first two sets with their powerful hitting and blocking. The Knights hit .458 in the first set and .467 in the second set, led by sophomore middle hitter Emily Crowe, who had nine kills in 10 attempts for a .900 hitting percentage.
But the tide started to turn in the third set. With junior McKenna Reagan coming off the bench to provide a spark, the Tommies jumped out to a 9-4 lead. Calvin whittled the lead down to 16-15 on a kill by Maggie Kamp, but back-to-back kills by Reagan ignited a six-point run that helped St. Thomas clinch the set.
“We call her ‘Captain Positive,’” Pham said of Reagan, who had five of her seven kills in the third set. “No matter what happens, she’s always saying ‘good job,’ ‘we’ll get the next one,’ (or) ‘come on’. She is really ultra-competitive, and I think that helped raise the level of competitiveness of our team and helped calm us down.”
The Tommies continued their surge in the fourth set, as Jill Greenfield, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and All-American Kelly Foley consistently found holes in the Knights’ defense. Foley’s kill sealed the set and extended the match to a fifth set, the first five-set match to decide the national title since 2007.
St. Thomas blockers’ came up big early in the deciding set, as two blocks by Mackenzie Piechowski and another by Foley helped the Tommies jump in front 9-5. Calvin mounted one final run, pulling to within 11-9 on a kill by national Player of the Year Lizzie Kamp.
But a Greenfield kill, followed by back-to-back kills by Paige Brimeyer, extended the lead to 14-9. Foley and Greenfield then teamed up for a block for the championship-clinching point. “I thought we were in the right mentality coming out, and I think we served very aggressively. We stayed in system,” Calvin coach Amber Warners said. “We talked throughout the tournament about staying in the present moment. I don’t really have an explanation (for what happened after the second set) … St. Thomas kicked it in, started serving more aggressively and stayed in system more.”
The Tommies’ attack percentage rose with each set, going from .103 in the first set to .245 in the third, .267 in the fourth and .389 in the deciding set.
Greenfield led St. Thomas with 14 kills and 17 digs, while Foley added 14 kills and seven blocks. Sara Atkinson had 12 kills and a hitting percentage of .455, while libero Kaiti Wachter had 19 digs.
Crowe led Calvin with 14 kills and a hitting percentage of .407 for the match, while Lizzie Kamp added 12 kills and 18 digs, and Maggie Kamp had 12 kills. All-American Megan Rietema dished out 45 assists while Rebecca Ratkov had eight blocks.
Greenfield was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Atkinson, Wachter, Lizzie Kamp, Crowe and Christopher Newport’s Abby Hogge.
The Tommies (39-1), who have won 34 consecutive matches, became the first Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team to reach the national championship match. They will play at 7 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the second semifinal contest between top-seeded Christopher Newport (Va.) and Calvin (Mich.) Elmhurst ended its season at 33-8.
The Bluejays, who won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championship this season, capitalized on six St. Thomas hitting errors in the early going. A pair of kills by setter Katie Rueffer allowed Elmhurst to build a 14-5 lead.
But St. Thomas chipped away at the lead, finally pulling ahead for the first time at 22-21 on an Elmhurst service error. A kill by All-American middle hitter Megan Reynolds tied the score at 22-22, but another Bluejays’ service error, followed by kills from Kelly Foley and Jill Greenfield, sealed the set for the Tommies.
“We just needed to make better plays, have better ball control, and (we knew) we’d be right back in the match,” St. Thomas coach Thanh Pham said.
St. Thomas built up a 21-15 lead in the second set, but Elmhurst fought back to cut the lead to 24-23 before Paige Brimeyer’s kill gave the Tommies a 2-sets-to-none lead.
The Bluejays threatened to extend the match by taking a 23-22 lead in the third set on a tandem block by Reynolds and Neya Veasy Smith, but a tip kill by senior middle blocker Mackenzie Piechowski and a double contact violation on Elmhurst clinched St. Thomas’ ticket to the championship match.
Greenfield led the Tommies with 11 kills and no errors for an attack percentage of .440, and added 11 digs. Foley added eight kills, and Brimeyer and Nicole Potts seven each. Kaiti Wachter had a match-high 24 digs to lead the St. Thomas defense.
Sam Szarmach led the Bluejays with 10 kills, while Reynolds had eight kills and five blocks. Hannah Lessen had 19 digs.
“I’m really proud of the fact that (my players) hung in there, and they battled all the way. I thought it was a great match,” Elmhurst coach Julie Hall said.
The Knights (33-2), who won their first national championship in 2010 by defeating Emory (Ga.), will play the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) for the Division III title at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Hope College’s DeVos Fieldhouse, 37 miles from the Calvin campus in Grand Rapids. The Captains, who were the tournament’s top-seeded team, had its 32-match winning streak snapped and ended its season at 40-3.
Using a diversified attack led by sisters Lizzie and Maggie Kamp, the Knights jumped on Christopher Newport early, building a 19-12 lead in the first set. The Captains battled back to cut the lead to 21-18, but back-to-back kills by Lizzie Kamp sealed the set.
Calvin, which won the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship, capitalized on a series of CNU attack errors to build a 17-11 lead in the second set, The Captains, who won the USA South championship, closed the gap to 19-18 on a Bailey Jensen kill, but could not pull even as the Knights took a 2-sets-to-none lead.
“I was very happy with how aggressive we served. I think it was probably one of the major differences in the match,” Calvin coach Amber Warners said.
“I was very proud of the intensity (we showed). We’ve talked all year about playing within each point – not looking at the past and not relying on the future and thinking ahead. We did that for the most part tonight.”
Christopher Newport showed its character in the third set, battling back from a 21-17 deficit to pull out the set. A tandem block by Cory Harris and Chastity Lacy gave the Captains a 24-23 lead, and Christie Fellows’ kill extended the match to a fourth set.
Leading 9-8 in the fourth set, the Knights slowly began to pull away, as Lizzie Kamp, Megan Rietema and Emily Crowe consistently found openings in the Christopher Newport defense. A tandem block by Lizzie Kamp and Rebecca Ratkov closed out the match.
“Calvin is just an unbelievable team,” Christopher Newport coach Lindsay Birch said. “They have some unbelievable athletes, great size, (with a) great coach. We did a lot of good things to get them out of system. I thought we served really great. Our serve-receive, we had to step up big time, and we did.”
The Knights hit over .300 in the first and fourth sets, and finished with four players in double figures for kills. Lizzie Kamp, who was named the national Division III Player of the Year Wednesday, had 15 kills, as did Maggie Kamp. Rietema, a first team All-American setter, added 11 kills, 40 assists and five blocks, while Crowe had 10 kills. Jen Pluymert led Calvin with 17 digs.
Fellows led the Captains with 12 kills, while Jessie Kolden added 11. Alyssa Kidd dished out 40 assists, and Abby Hogge had 28 digs.
Box / Watch Post-Match Press Conference
The Tommies, champions of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, defeated Clarkson (N.Y.) University in three sets, 25-13, 27-25, 25-20 for their 33rd consecutive win and school record 38th win against just one loss this season.
“We’re happy about (advancing), but we’re not content,” St. Thomas coach Thanh Pham said. “I think the girls are striving for a little bit more.”
St. Thomas seized control of the match early, reeling off 10 unanswered points midway through the first set to take a 20-9 lead. The Golden Knights battled back from a 15-9 deficit to tie the second set at 25-25, but a kill by St. Thomas’ Nicole Potts and a Clarkson attack error gave the Tommies a 2-sets-to-none lead.
All-American middle blocker Kelly Foley led St. Thomas with 10 kills, while Jill Greenfield added eight kills, five aces and 12 digs, and Paige Brimeyer had eight kills. Kaiti Wachter led the Tommies’ defense with 18 digs,while setter Katie Maher distributed 23 assists.
Aishvina Arasu led Clarkson (31-7), which became the first Liberty League team to reach the Division III quarterfinals, with 11 kills, while Erika Chin had 15 digs. Lani Durio dished out 24 assists.
“I’m incredibly proud of how my young team performed today,” said Golden Knights’ coach Johan Dulfer, who had six freshmen on his roster. “We knew we were in for a battle with an absolutely great team that has had a great season.”
Elmhurst, which won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championship this year, swept Salisbury (Md.) University in Thursday’s NCAA quarterfinal, 25-20, 25-19, 25-18. The Bluejays (33-7) will face the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in the first of two semifinal contests at 5 p.m. Friday at DeVos Fieldhouse.
Trailing 15-14 in the first set, the Bluejays seized control behind the play of junior All-American and CCIW Player of the Year Megan Reynolds. Reynolds had back-to-back blocks and two kills during an 8-1 run that propelled Elmhurst into a 22-16 lead, and the Bluejays went on to claim the set.
“Megan always sets the tone. She’s our go-to (player), she’s our leader in a lot of different ways, blocking, hitting,” Elmhurst coach Julie Hall said.
As Salisbury (37-4) shifted its focus on trying to stop Reynolds as the match wore on, Elmhurst’s other hitters stepped up. Six Bluejays had at least six kills for the match, as Elmhurst had a hitting percentage of .252, including .289 in the third set.
Reynolds, Kaitlyn Wilks and Sam Szarmach led Elmhurst with nine kills each. Setter Erin Thill dished out 23 assists and added 13 digs. Hannah Lessen had 19 digs, leading five players who had double figures in digs.
Ashlyn Tapley led the Sea Gulls with 10 kills and 10 digs, while All-American setter Carley Todd had an outstanding all-around match with seven kills, 23 assists and a match-high 22 digs.
“We ran into a great team in Elmhurst. I’m extremely proud of how my team played all year long. They certainly battled out there today. Sea Gull Power is alive,” Salisbury coach Margie Knight said.
Elmhurst won the Division III national championship in 1983 and 1985, and finished runnerup in 1987.
The Captains shook off a slow start Thursday night to defeat the University of Massachusetts-Boston, 22-25, 25-9, 25-17, 25-18, for their 40th win in 42 matches this season. They will play the winner of the quarterfinal contest between Calvin (Mich.) and Puget Sound (Wash.) in Friday’s second semifinal match at 7:30 p.m. at DeVos Fieldhouse.
Christopher Newport built an 18-14 lead in the first set, but the scrappy Beacons fought their way back. A kill by All-American Shannon Thompson gave UMass-Boston a 22-21 lead, and subsequent kills by Kirsten Morrison and Amber Clemons gave the Beacons the first set.
But in the second set, the Captains got their high-powered attack going. Jessie Kolden had four kills, and Cory Harris ripped off three kills in a row during a 15-2 run that erased a 5-4 UMass-Boston lead. Christopher Newport had a hitting percentage of .517 for the set.
“We didn’t serve very well at the beginning (of the match). We also didn’t pass very well,” Captains coach Lindsay Birch said. “But we progressed as the match went on. We didn’t freak out about it.”
Another eight-point run by the Captains blew open the third set. In the fourth set, the Beacons fought back from a 15-9 deficit to tie the set at 17-17. But a kill and an ace by Bailey Jensen put Christopher Newport ahead to stay as it closed out the match.
“We started out pretty well. The first game we played well. We lost our composure for two games. In the fourth game we started coming back,” UMass-Boston coach Terry Condon said.
Four different players had double figures in kills for the Captains, led by Harris with 16. Christie Fellows and Bailey Jensen added 12 kills apiece. Alyssa Kidd dished out 47 assists and added 15 digs, and libero Abby Hogge played a strong defensive game with 23 digs. Chastity Lacy had seven blocks.
Morrison led the Beacons (20-12) with 10 kills, while Thompson added nine. Emma Rocha dealt out 18 assists and served up three aces.
Playing less than 40 miles from their home campus, Calvin (Mich.) College dominated the final two sets Thursday night in defeating the University of Puget Sound (Wash.), 25-22, 23-25, 25-15, 25-10, in an NCAA Division III volleyball tournament quarterfinal at DeVos Fieldhouse.
The Knights, who won the 2010 national championship, will take on 2011 national runnerup Christopher Newport (Va.) University (40-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in a Division III semifinal matchup. The other semifinal, at 5 p.m., pits St. Thomas (Minn.) (38-1) against Elmhurst (Ill.) (33-7). The first two sets were evenly played. The first set was tied nine times before national Division III Player of the Year Lizzie Kamp got going. Kamp had four kills during an 8-2 run that gave Calvin a 17-11 lead.
The Loggers (22-6) battled back to within two points on three occasions, but Calvin freshman Maggie Kamp closed out the set with a cross-court kill.
In the second set, Puget Sound’s strong serving helped the Loggers build a 17-10 lead. Calvin pulled to within 23-22 on a tandem block by Rebecca Ratkov and Megan Rietema. However, Marissa Florant’s kill pulled Puget Sound even at a set apiece.
The Knights seized control of the match in the third set, jumping out to a 7-3 lead and extending the lead from there, hitting .375 for the set. Calvin then scored the first six points in the fourth set, and Puget Sound never recovered.
“I think we served more aggressively (in the final two sets). Our passing was more on. When our passing is on and Megan can be offensive, it really throws the (opposing) defense and the block off,” Calvin coach Amber Warners said.
Lizzie Kamp led the Knights with 18 kills and 14 digs, while Emily Crowe had 11 kills and a hitting percentage of .500. Rietema, who joined Lizzie Kamp as first-team All-Americans, had nine kills, 41 assists, 13 digs and five blocks, while Kristen Zietze had 16 digs.
“Calvin is really a great team. They have a lot of firepower. We knew that coming in,” Puget Sound coach Mark Massey said. “One of the keys for us was to serve very effectively, and pass to all our options in our offense. I thought we played two outstanding games (to start the match).”
Florant and Jackie Harvey led the Loggers with 10 kills each. Jenni Brehove dished out 38 assists and added 10 digs, while libero Christina Chun had 16 digs before leaving the match because of injury in the fourth set.
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