NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- By routing defending Division III champion Calvin on Saturday, Hope College’s women’s volleyball team rose to the highest heights it has ever reached.
Sunday, the Flying Dutch will stay grounded -- in more ways than one.
“We’re gonna go to church,” coach Becky Schmidt said after Hope’s three-set defeat of the Knights put Hope (33-2) into Monday’s national championship game against Emory (39-3) at 1 p.m. at Christopher Newport.Affiliated with the Reformation Church of America, Hope does not compete on Sundays. So Schmidt, a former Flying Dutch player in her 11th year as coach, will apply the same prohibition to practice, even with her program’s first national title in the balance.
“We’re gonna spend some time together, and love on each other, then we’re gonna get down to business on Monday,” said Schmidt, whose team’s only other semifinal appearance came five years ago.
“We’ll talk some volleyball. But we’re out of the gym and we’re gonna spend the time together.”
The convictions of Hope and Calvin, which also doesn’t compete in sports on Sundays, had already caused the title game to be moved to Monday at the Freeman Center.
But a day of rest seems a suitable reward for the relentlessness with which the Flying Dutch stormed the Knights, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association rivals who beat Hope twice this season.
“We’re both very, very good volleyball teams, and we said good luck beating us three times,” said Hope’s senior outside hitter Anna Lynch, who delivered 15 kills.
After a gripping opening set that Hope captured 28-26, the Flying Dutch suffocated Calvin’s attack 25-18 and 25-14 from there. Hope swarmed on the defensive side with eight blocks and 59 digs, limiting Calvin to a season-low hitting percentage of .113.
“That was the best blocking effort I’ve seen by a Hope team, ever,” Schmidt said. “These guys came out focused, and with intention.”
The result assured there would still be no repeat champion in Division III since Central Iowa’s three straight titles more than a decade ago.
“We got pretty close,” Calvin coach Amber Warners said after the Knights finished 31-4. “I feel incredibly grateful that we were to be able to win it again. And you can’t win them every year.”
Calvin lost to Hope in three close sets in September, but the Knights got the better of Hope twice thereafter, including a five-setter in the conference tournament final.
Anticipation was ripe for another marathon after the taut first set. But Hope on this night was too motivated.
“We’ve had this goal for years,” Lynch said. “We are a powerhouse at Hope and we keep setting our expectations higher and higher.”
Lynch confided with a laugh that while Hope prides itself on playing with a calm confidence, “I think right now the calmness has kind of gone away.”
Schmidt admitted as much too, another reason the coach said a day of rest is perfect food for the bodies and minds of her Flying Dutch.
“We’re feeling pretty good right now, but we haven’t played Emory yet,” Schmidt said. “Monday’s gonna be a new ballgame with new opportunities and new challenges. And we’re ready to take them on.”