GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Hannah Grow knew she would be back home in Grand Rapids at the end of November. But she never dreamed it would be while still playing volleyball.
The Bethel University senior, who graduated from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern High School, will finish out her college volleyball career at home as the 2015 NCAA III Volleyball Finals are at Calvin College this week.
“We knew the finals were in Grand Rapids and I’m like ‘oh man, if we are good enough to get there …’ It’s been a dream. I’m sitting here looking out the window at my own city.”
Bethel, which entered the NCAA III Tournament unranked, is one of eight teams to compete in the finals, which begin Thursday and finish Saturday with the championship match.
Thursday quarterfinal pairings will see Carthage (34-7) facing Randolph-Macon (28-7); Clarkson (30-8) meeting Wittenberg (27-2); Hendrix (29-8) taking on Bethel (25-9) and Cal Lutheran (28-5) taking on Bowdoin (26-4).
To get this far, Bethel had to go through Hope College, the defending national champion. And the Royals did it convincingly in the first round with a 3-0 victory.
“I think the result kind of shocked us,” said Grow, a 5-foot-7 defensive specialist. “To beat them in three was just the confidence we needed to say ‘we are a really good team, too.’ Maybe we underestimated ourselves.”
It was also an opportunity to see an old friend.
“One of my good friends from high school is the libero on their team,” Grow said of Hope senior Allie Mitchell. “We were so excited to see each other. It was cool since I’ve never faced anyone I know being way out at here at Bethel.”
One of the best players in this week’s tournament is Bethel junior Carlee Hoppe, who was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player after the Royals beat Northwestern.
“Carlee is an amazing volleyball player,” Grow said of the outside hitter, who leads the team with 391 kills and 30 service aces. “Since she came to Bethel, she’s started every match. Such an asset to our team. She’s our go-to hitter. She’s such a smart player and really deserved that award.”
Bethel, which is coached by Gretchen Hunt, beat Northwestern in five sets to advance. Kristin Stern, a sophomore middle blocker, and Nicole Deberry, a senior outside hitter, were each named to the All-Tournament team.
Bethel is a Christian university in Arden, Minnesota, with an enrollment of approximately 6,000 students.
So how did a Michigan athlete end up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?
“I had heard of it because of my Mom,” said Grow, who is an athletic training major. “She had a high school friend there. My older brother (Josh) went on a visit there to play hockey. But he went on to Liberty. They said it was a pretty campus and I got interested.”
Many of the Grow clan will be attending this week’s matches, which includes parents Stephen and Bonnie Grow and Hannah’s older siblings Josh, Sarah and Caleb.