HOLLAND, Mich. -- Calvin coach Amber Warners tends to be a pessimist. But she never doubted her Knights Saturday night, even when they trailed Cal Lutheran 2-0 in the NCAA III national championship match.A year after leading St. Thomas (Minn.) 2-0 only to lose 3-2 in the title match, Calvin trailed the Regals 2-0 on the same DeVos Fieldhouse court Saturday night, but rallied to claim its second national crown in four seasons, 20-25, 12-25, 25-22, 25-17, 20-18.
Calvin (35-1), which won the 2010 national championship and which was ranked No. 1 most of this season, used the 10-minute break between the second and third sets to its advantage Saturday night.
“This is a really hard sport to win, especially at this level,” Warners said. “I said to the women, ‘No volleyball talk for the first six minutes of that 10 minutes,’ but then the first thing I said to them was, ‘We’ve been in this situation before, flipped. You can flip it back.’ It’s so cliché, but staying in the moment and playing for the point is so crucial.
“Our backs were to the wall. I think I tend to be a pessimist in nature, but there wasn’t one time today that I didn’t think we could win.”
National player of the year Megan Rietema, Calvin’s senior setter, felt the match’s momentum shift as soon as the match’s third set began. “During that break we were able to come out relaxed and able to play our game,” she said.
Calvin’s game is offensive, with Rietema, who is probably the most offensive setter in the nation, also feeding the ball to hitters Maggie Kamp, Ellie Diepersloot and Emily Crowe. Kamp, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, had 27 kills Saturday night, 119 of which came in the match’s final three sets.
“I can’t tell you how grateful, humble, blessed to have been privileged to coach these women,” Warners said. “After last year, I thought about ever having the privilege to do it again, knowing you’re vulnerable to defeat again, this is such a great feeling”
Cal Lutheran (35-2) was attempting to win the school’s first NCAA team championship. The Regals had a championship point of their own, at 16-15, and survived five other championship points before finally dropping the fifth set Saturday night. “Calvin is a fantastic team, full of studs, with a stud coach whom I’ve just gotten to know and I’m pretty sure will be friends with for life,” Cal Lutheran coach Kellee Roesel said. “These kids fought extremely hard and I guarantee we had more fun than any other team in the nation. These kids are the best I could ever ask for. The only reason they’re upset is because they love it so much and they love each other so much.”