Caleb Pollema—Staff Writer
After five days of grueling competition at the NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championships, the Defenders found themselves playing for the national title for the second year in a row.
The Defenders arrived at the tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 28, with a bad taste in their mouths from the previous year’s second-place finish in the tournament. They began pool play with a matchup against Ottawa (Kan.).
The Defenders won the match in a 3-0 sweep led by senior Ema Altena’s 17 kills and sophomore Ally Krommendyk’s 10 kills. Coach Hanson was happy to get this victory behind them, especially after the team had two weeks off.
Dordt moved into its second game of pool play against Northwest (Wash.) on Wednesday. Dordt dominated the match in a 3-0 victory, led by 40 assists from senior Jamie Gesink and Krommendyk’s 10 kills. Head coach Chad Hanson was especially happy with Krommendyk’s performance.
“Ally Krommendyk was phenomenal and very, very active early on,” Hanson said. “Jamie found her in a lot of different capacities. [Krommendyk] had some clean looks where she bounced shots in and she had some spots where she put smart shots in. It was really fun to see her come alive in this match.”
With two wins in the tournament thus far, the Defenders headed into the final matchup of pool play against Missouri Baptist, hoping to position themselves well for the rest of the weekend.
Missouri Baptist proved to be a tough matchup for Dordt as the Defenders fell to the Spartans 2-3. The Defenders got out to a one-set-to-none lead, but that was not enough, as Missouri Baptist edged out Dordt 16-14 in the deciding fifth set.
Both teams advanced to the elimination bracket with Dordt’s first matchup coming against bitter GPAC rival, the Hastings Broncos. The Defenders had not beaten the Broncos all year, but this was going to be the time to get it done.
The Defenders fell to the Broncos in the first set 20-25, but rallied back to win the next three sets, despite a .154 kill efficiency. Dordt beat their conference rival and advanced to the quarterfinals with a matchup against Westmont on Friday evening.
Led by 18 kills from junior Leah Kamp, Westmont proved to be no match for the Defenders as Dordt avenged an early-season loss to Westmont with a 3-0 sweep to advance to the semifinals Saturday morning. Hanson was especially happy with the great teamwork the Defenders showed.
“This was a team effort, where each of our hitters [was] trying to get the point,” Hanson said. “Leah came through big for us quite often. The fun part of coaching this team and with the length of this season is that we get more creative as the season goes. We try to run different routes with more options and Jamie and Leah were well-connected and that paid off for us.”
Dordt entered Saturday’s matchup against another familiar foe in Viterbo (Wis.). The Defenders lost 3-1 earlier in the season at Viterbo, but were back with a vengeance in the semifinals.
After initially leading set one 19-15, the Defenders lost their lead and dropped the first set to the V-Hawks. However, Dordt rallied back once again to a 3-1 match victory over Viterbo.
Hanson said he was happy with how the team got past the early deficit and rallied together as one to keep moving forward in the tournament.
With a victory, the Defenders advanced to a second straight national title game. They were set to face an undefeated Lindsey Wilson (Ken.) team.
Dordt fans showed up loud and proud in their gold attire to cheer on the team with the hopes of winning Dordt’s first national title in any sport in school history.
For the first time at nationals this year, the Defenders’ efforts fell short as the team dropped the match 3-1 to finish as National Runners-up for the second consecutive year. Kamp had 20 kills behind Gesink’s 50 assists.
Both Altena and Kamp were named to the All-Tournament team. Senior Summer Jansen was named Libero of the Year and the Defenders won the Champions of Character award for the season.
True to their colors, the volleyball team represented Dordt with character. For that, they have nothing to be ashamed of, despite the loss. Two back-to-back National Championship game appearances in any sport is quite rare, and with very few seniors on the team this year, there is no reason to believe this team will not be in this same position next year.