St. Thomas (Minn.) pushes past Calvin to claim national title
HOLLAND, Mich. -- The vast majority of the 3,517 fans likely thought they were coming to watch top-ranked Calvin march to the national championship past St. Thomas.
The crowd appeared to be getting its wish as the Knights won the first two sets, but it progressively grew quieter, then shocked and finally stunned as St. Thomas rallied to claim the national championship in five sets (13-25, 17-25, 25-18, 25-16, 15-9).
“Wow,” St. Thomas head coach Thanh Pham said. “Down two sets in that environment and being able to pull it out speaks volumes about these young ladies. They are fighters. They fought through it.”
Calvin (33-3) had an attack percentage of .463 through the first two sets while St. Thomas (40-1) managed a percentage of just .131.
“We knew that wasn't us; that was not our typical game,” Pham said. “The crowd was very, very intimidating so being able to play through that is what turned it around. Fortunately we have a deep bench and McKenna Reagan came in and was the difference maker.”
Reagan had five kills in the third set as the Tommies rallied to quiet the partisan crowd.
“Everyone on our team knows what she means to our team,” Pham said of Reagan. “We call her 'Captain Positive' because she is always yelling encouragement.”
The Tommies, who ended the season with a 35-match winning streak, shocked the crowd by winning the fourth set and forcing a fifth.
“The crowd made it hard,” St. Thomas sophomore Kelly Foley said, “but once we started to get used to it, we started to play the way we knew we could play.”
Calvin setter Megan Rietema and hitters Lizzie Kamp and Emily Crowe were named to the all-tournament team.
“This sport is one where momentum can shift very quickly,” Knights head coach Amber Warners said. “You can want it as badly as you can or try as hard as you can and not turn it around. It's a credit to St. Thomas. They kicked it in and turned it around.”
St. Thomas libero Kaiti Wachter and hitter Sara Atkinson were named to the all-tournament team while the Tommies' sophomore outside hitter Jill Greenfield was named the championship tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
“Shock but not disbelief,” Greenfield said of winning the national crown. “What got us here is belief in our team.”