Corina Beimers—Staff Writer
It was a Monday morning on Nov. 15 and the Dordt University women’s volleyball team waited. Currently, the remainder of their season was in question, as the NAIA National Tournament teams were announced. These teams had one goal: Sioux City, where the final round of the tournament was being held.
A number of matchups were mentioned, the team waited longer. Finally, Dordt University joined the list. On Nov. 20, the Defenders were scheduled to play Bethel University.
The contest, hosted in the DeWitt Gymnasium, started out as a back and forth affair. Dordt pulled away to lead 17-13 in the first set, but the Pilots battled back to tie it up at 24-24. A kill from Corrina Timmermans and an error from the Pilots ended the set at 26-24, putting the Defenders ahead in the match.
The Defenders started strong in set two, going ahead 5-0. The Pilots were able to close the gap throughout the set, but Dordt held them off to a finish of 25-22. The third set brought something new, as the Defenders had to fight back from an early deficit. While staying calm and confident, they were able to come back from a 0-5 start to win the third and final set, 25-20. Timmermans led the team with 10 kills, with Jessi Franken and Alli Timmermans adding eight of their own. Megan Raszler and Campbell Marshall dished out the assists, totalling 21 and 13 respectively.
“It was a close match if you look at the scores, but it felt like we were in control the whole time and we simply had fun out there,” Raszler said.
Dordt’s sweep of Bethel secured their trip to Sioux City when pools were announced the next day. But, the Defenders were not given the easy road, to say the least.
On Nov. 30, at 8:30 a.m., the Defenders started the NAIA National Tournament by facing defending national champions and number three ranked, Missouri Baptist University. While all three sets were close and well-fought by the Defenders, they fell in all three sets to the Missouri Baptist Spartans: 22-25, 24-26, and 20-25. Timmermans led the team with 12 kills and Mia Gamet posted 12 digs.
“We put up a good battle,” junior middle blocker Danielle Vandevoort said. “It was a tough pool to be in and it wasn’t the result we wanted, but we have to be proud of ourselves for what we did today and look forward to the next game.”
After a tough loss, the Defenders had to find both energy and perseverance for their last pool play game against number 16 seed, Central Methodist University, the same day at 3:00 p.m. The match stretched to five sets, testing the will of the team to finish strong. The first set entered extra points until the Defenders finished it off with a block from Corrina Timmermans to win 30-28. The game continued to go back and forth, each team taking turns winning sets until the Defenders were able to take control and win the fifth set 15-9. Alli Timmermans led the match with 17 kills, Jessi Franken had 15, and Grace Langemeirer and Corrina Timmermans each with 14.
While ending the tournament on a win, it wasn’t going to be enough to continue their time at the national tournament. The tournament’s format changed two years ago due to COVID-19, with only one team advancing from each pool. As Missouri Baptist beat Central Methodist the following morning, the Spartans secured their spot in the national quarterfinal and sent the Defenders home.
Dordt women’s volleyball ended their season with a record of 19-9, finishing seventh in the GPAC after a year of challenges and tough opponents. Starting the season ranked fifth in the country after a semi-final appearance in last year’s national tournament, the Defenders’ season didn’t go exactly as planned. But the team showed growth, despite dropping in the rankings to enter the national tournament as the number 22 seed. After starting the season 10-1, the team found themselves in a rough patch of their season, experiencing four consecutive losses beginning on Sept. 15.
“We had to learn to trust each other more,” Vandervoort said. “Trust between players and between players and the coaches.”
This work paid off as both the program and the fans could see a shift in the team as they finished their regular season.
“The GPAC is an insanely competitive conference, which makes for a season that is constantly pushing you to be your best, but it means that you’re never guaranteed wins,” Raszler said. “Our record may not look phenomenal, but our schedule throughout this year was full of good, ranked opponents.”
The Defenders never dropped a game to a team that wasn’t ranked in the top 25 throughout the year.
The Defenders now head into their offseason. They are graduating five seniors but have many young talents rising-up through the program. Freshman setter, Campbell Marshall, completed the season with 431 assists and freshman defensive specialist, Mia Gamet, with 261 digs. The team also suffered from the loss of junior middle blocker, Brenna Krommendyk, for most of this season due to injury. As the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and All-American, the Defenders look forward to her return next season.