GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Allie Eason knew she would have a few family members flying out from California to see her play volleyball this weekend.
But the California Lutheran senior was stunned to see her sister, who flew across the Atlantic Ocean, sitting in the stands at the 2015 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Tournament in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“She didn’t tell me she was coming,” Eason said of her sister Kristen Miller, who lives with her husband, Jamie, who is in the military and stationed in Germany. “I knew one of my sisters, who lives in Chicago, was coming. And I knew my brother and my mom were coming. But I had no idea my sister from Germany was coming. When I saw her in the stands, I started bawling.”
Eason’s family got to see Cal Lutheran (29-5) rally to beat Bowdoin (26-5) 3-1 on Thursday evening. The Regals lost the first set, 25-20, but came back to win 25-17, 25-16, 25-23.
“I am just extremely proud of my kids,” Cal Lutheran coach Kellee Roesel said. “I was excited that they were able to weather the storm and battle back and play CLU volleyball at the end of the match.”
The Regals advance to the semifinals to play Carthage (35-7) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Wittenberg (28-2) takes on Hendrix (29-8) in the other semifinal at 5 p.m. The championship is Saturday at 7 p.m.
“I’m a big John Wooden fan,” Roesel said of the former UCLA men’s basketball coach. “We talk about fearing no one but respecting everyone. We came in with a lot of respect [for Bowdoin] and the first set proved me right.”
Eason, who graduated from Buena High School in Oxnard, California, led the team with 19 kills and freshman Amanda Roberts added 12 kills and a service ace.
“Allie Eason means everything to this program,” Roesel said. “She’s an excellent example of what we’re trying to produce at Cal Lutheran. She’s a completely different woman than when she came into our program. She’s gritty, tough and a smart player that everyone enjoys playing with.”
Roberts, who is from Grass Valley, California, and attended Nevada Union High School, said it hasn’t been easy being a freshman with so much pressure on her shoulders.
“It’s been really hard,” she said. “It’s an intense program. But I like to be pushed and have something to work for. The season's had its ups and downs and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Eason said Roberts’ worth ethic doesn’t go unnoticed.
“I think Amanda’s doing such an amazing job for us,” Eason said. “She plays with such enthusiasm all the time and she works her butt off. She plays with a lot of confidence, and I think, for a freshman, that’s a huge deal because you are new to a very successful program.”
Eason knew she’d have a cheering section, which included mother, Sandy Oill, brother Eric Eason, sister Michelle Miller and her son Madden, and family friend, Tom Straughn.
But she got a second surprise when she arrived in Grand Rapids.
“My roommate and my best friend surprised me, too,” Eason said of Caitlin Fransen and Hannah Orlandi. Both previously played on the Cal Lutheran volleyball team.
Jamie Smith, a sophomore setter, led the way with 48 assists for Cal Lutheran. Junior libero Nicki Tetherow had a team-high 21 digs and two services aces and Michelle Lawrence, a junior outside hitter, had 11 kills and 16 digs.