Calvin hopes to slay another giant
After ending CNU's 32-game win streak, St. Thomas awaits
HOLLAND, Mich. - After ending Christopher Newport's 32-match winning streak in semifinal action Friday night, Calvin is looking to end the St. Thomas' 34-match streak Saturday night in the national championship match at Hope College's DeVos Fieldhouse.
The top-ranked Knights, whose campus sits just 37 miles from the site of the championship, needed four sets to end CNU's streak Friday night while UST won its semifinal match against Elmhurst Friday in just three sets.
“St. Thomas is very athletic,” Calvin College coach Amber Warners, who led the Knights to the 2010 national championship, said. “They have two very good middle hitters (sophomore Jill Greenfield and junior Paige Brimeyer) so we have our work cut out for us. We have to bring every aspect of our game and see what happens.”
Calvin College enters Saturday's national championship match with a record of 33-2, having lost only to Washington (Mo.) and Elmhurst, the team that the Tommies beat on Friday. The Tommies are 39-1, having not lost since their five-set defeat at the hands of Emory on Sept. 7.
“Whether or not we win, we want to be proud of our season and our accomplishments and be thankful,” St. Thomas coach Thanh Pham said after Friday's victory. “[Saturday] is a bonus day. We want to win, but the most important thing for us is being proud of our game and what we've done.”
The only bonus Calvin's Knights want to collect Saturday night is their second national championship trophy in three years.
“We do a good job of focusing on what is happening on our side of the court,” said Calvin senior outside hitter Lizzie Kamps, who has two younger sisters on the Knights' roster. “We play our game and we don't worry about what our opponent is doing. We try not to play our opponent but to play our own game.”
The Knights' game features the power of hitting sisters Lizzie and (freshman) Maggie Kamp, who each had 15 kills in their semifinal victory Friday evening, as well as the unpredictable offense provided by 6-foot-2 junior setter Megan Rietema, who is a weapon few teams possess and even fewer can stop.
Although the national championship is being held less than an hour from Calvin's campus in Grand Rapids, the Knights are staying in Holland in an effort to distinguish the championships from any other tournament.
“It is definitely an advantage for us to play on a familiar court,” Lizzie Kamp said.
That court drew 2,054 fans -- mostly Calvin fans -- for Friday's semis.
“A huge shout-out to them,” Kamps said. “Their energy comes down onto the court.”