Head coach Katie Van Hofwegen kicked off her coaching career in style for Grace College’s volleyball team, leading the Lady Lancers to two wins on Friday.
Grace took down IU-East in five sets before coming from behind to beat Trinity Christian 3-1 in the opening day of the Grace College Classic.
“This was really exciting for me as a coach to watch the girls execute what we’ve worked on in preseason,” Van Hofwegen said. “The fought back every single point and worked well together as a team to get these wins.”
Grace started both of its first two sets against IU-East with a deficit and yet rallied to win each time. Grace pulled out a narrow 25-23 victory in the opener and won 25-17 in the second set.
The Red Wolves (0-1) staved off the sweep with a 25-18 win in the third game and held off a late rally in the fourth to win 25-23. IU-East led by six points late in the fourth set, but Grace rallied back to tie the score 23-23. The Red Wolves recovered, however, scoring the next two points to force a tiebreaker.
The final set belonged to Grace from the first serve. Grace scored the first six points of the game on the strength of Laken Chaney’s serving, and the Lady Lancers never looked back. Grace dominated 15-4 to take the match and secure Van Hofwegen a victory in her coaching debut. The Lady Lancers hit an impressive .556 in the final set compared to -.250 for IU-East.
“Not many teams in the country can come out in a fifth game and have the start they did. I was really proud of our effort and energy in that last set,” Van Hofwegen said.
Freshman Caylie Teel excelled in her first collegiate match, racking up 12 kills, 6 digs and 3 block assists, and Sierra Smith led Grace with 13 kills. Chaney finished with 35 assists as the team’s setter, adding two service aces and eight digs.
Grace notched 10 aces as a team, including four from Tori Bontrager. Bontrager also finished with five digs and four block assists.
Sara Miller led all players with 16 digs, Annie Salazar added 10 more, and Grace Woolsey chipped in with seven kills and four block assists.
Grace ended the day with a challenging match against Trinity Christian, and a rowdy Lancer crowd fueled Grace to a four-set win. The Trolls (1-1) eliminated the Lady Lancers from last year’s NCCAA National Championships, but Grace found its revenge on Friday.
Trinity Christian eked out a 25-23 win in the opener, but Grace had a response. The Lady Lancers won the second set 25-21 by forcing the Trolls into 10 errors, and Grace’s offense exploded for 15 kills in the third set for another 25-21 win.
Grace did not waste time assuming control in the decisive fourth set, opening up a 7-0 lead. Trinity Christian could not find a comeback, falling 25-13 to end the match.
Bontrager and Woolsey had 11 kills apiece to lead Grace, and Bontrager added five block assists. Chaney dished out 36 assists, and Teel had a match-high 28 digs. Miller added 15 digs, and Chaney chipped in 11 digs.
“The ladies had a big chip on their shoulder entering the match with Trinity. They wanted to win bad and prove to themselves that they could beat a team at that level,” Van Hofwegen said. “They brought intensity throughout the match and really fed off the crowd tonight.”
The Lady Lancers conclude the Grace Classic on Saturday with a match at 11 a.m. against St. Ambrose and at 4 p.m. against Point Park.