Women’s Volleyball Continues to Excel

The Women’s Volleyball team won 3-0  in their home opener against Kalamazoo on October 2nd. There was a great turnout by the student body, making for an electric environment. Reflecting on the game, sophomore pin hitter Madelyn Hall said, “We played well, very cohesive. The home atmosphere helped… made us more comfortable.” 

At this point in the season, the team had started off strong, winning 12 out of their first 13 games — all on the road. Despite that, head coach and four-time AVCA Division III National Coach of the Year Amber Warners was aware of the challenges. “I thought we came out strong. It’s always hard, the first home game of the year. There’s excitement, nerves.”

Last year’s team was highly successful, making an NCAA Tournament Finals appearance. However, the team has lost seniors Anna Kamp, Rachel Herrera and Keliahna Castillo. Regarding  their absence, Warners said, “I think it’s really difficult when you have a group of seniors one year who are such an integral part of your team chemistry and makeup.”

Additionally, the team has welcomed nine freshman who make up nearly half of the roster. These freshman have been called upon to make large contributions throughout the season.  This year’s team is decidedly different, but that’s not a necessarily bad thing.

Sophomore outside hitter and recent MIAA Volleyball Player of the Week Kelsey Smith said, “We’re different this year, but in the best way possible. Last year’s team was amazing, but this year’s is amazing too.” Hall agreed, saying that there are “different personalities and different cohesiveness. It’s all very good. It still feels just like family.” The team’s chemistry has allowed them to bring out the best in one another. Hall continued, “While pushing each other to be the best, we make it fun at the same time. We’re always laughing and being weird.” According to Hall, this team has found the balance between competitive intensity and playful chemistry.

Strategically, the team has had to adjust to the personnel changes. The team has adopted a faster paced style of play. Warners explained, “We’re not as tall, as big, so instead of being more powerful we’re trying to be faster and more athletic, and when you’re faster and you have a faster tempo offense, it’s harder for teams to get set. It’s harder to block.” As a result, Calvin has boasted a top three ranking in hitting percentage, assists per set and second in kills per set in the DIII AVCA and regional rankings.

Despite the offensive success, Warners believes that the team’s defense is what sets them apart. While talking about the defense, Smith said, “[The defense is] scrappy… No one is willing to let the ball drop.” The players bring the same intensity to not just games, but practice as well. On the topic of practice, Warners said, “I don’t remember a team that is as fiercely competitive as this one. Neither side gives in competitively. It’s really a joy to be a part of.” 

However, they still have room to grow. With the majority of players being freshmen and sophomores, the team is younger than many of their opponents. Warners would like to see the underclassman take more initiative on a leadership standpoint. “There are no grade divisions — no levels of seniority when we’re playing,” she explained. “We need the freshman play and lead like they did when they were seniors in high school.” 

Despite this, the team has jumped out to a 16-1 record (Oct. 16) coming off a win this past Wednesday against  St. Mary’s, and is ranked second in the division with a very promising year ahead.