GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Playing in a familiar environment, 14th-ranked Hope was able to roll to a first-round victory against Otterbein (25-21,25-22,25-16) in the NCAA tournament at Van Noord Arena.

Hope (25-6, 14-2 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) jumped out to a 14-4 lead in the early stages of the first set. Otterbein, making its second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, did not give up, closing the gap to 21-23 behind the play of sophomore Annie Juenger. Hope would take the next two points, taking the set 25-21.

The Cardinals would come out in the second set much stronger than the first. The two teams would trade points back and forth before Otterbein took a 16-12 lead. Hope would respond with a run that would tie the game at 20. Five of the next seven points would go Hope’s way, giving the Flying Dutch the 25-22 win in set two.

Hope would continue to use long runs to establish itself, building up an 11-4 lead in set three. Otterbein would narrow the gap to 14-16, but the Flying Dutch would end the game on a 9-2 run, securing the first-round victory.

Hope was led on offense by freshmen Jenna Grasmeyer, the MIAA Freshmen of the Year, with 13 kills. The defense of the Flying Dutch dug out 48 balls overall, led by junior Jessica Maier, who had 15 digs. Senior Lindy Melville and junior Greer Bratschie added 11 apiece, with Bratschie also adding 28 assists.

“I thought it started with our serving. We served very aggressively today,” head coach Becky Schmidt said. “When we were in system, we were very tough to beat. Our passers did a good job at critical moments, getting the ball to Greer.”

Located just a half-hour away from Calvin, the Hope players went about their daily routines before the game.

“The girls had class today. They had homework and exams. For them to come out and play with this kind of focus tonight, that was great,” Schmidt said.

Otterbein (26-6, 8-1 Ohio Athletic Conference) was led by junior outside hitter Kristin Bennett, who tallied nine kills. Freshmen Tabatha Piper had 24 assists, while senior Lindsey Russell added 17 digs and sophomore Emily Caldwell had 11 digs.

“I think my team was down eight to 10 points in game one, and eight to 10 points in game two, and we fought back to challenge Hope. The effort was there for the entire three games,” Cardinals head coach Monica McDonald said. “I think we definitely came out and represented Otterbein a lot stronger than we did last year. We have taken a lot of strides, and that is because of the great kids that we have their dedication.”

“We were really excited to have this opportunity again. We honestly played our hearts out, but we weren’t connecting on all cylinders,” Bennett said. “I think we played pretty well, but we would have liked to win the match. [Hope] went out and played their hearts out, and credit to them.”

Hope will now face Calvin in a second round match Friday night at 7 p.m. The meeting will be the fourth of the year between the two rivals including the third in the last two weeks.