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Volleyball team reaches national semi-finals

By Mike Byker

The Dordt College Lady Defender volleyball team reaped the rewards of an extended season early in December when they traveled to San Diego, California, to take part in the NAIA national volleyball tournament. The trip marked the fourth time in six seasons the Lady Defenders advanced to the elite tournament.

The Lady Defenders beat Spring Hill (Alabama) on the first day of the tournament 3-0 and then played to two 3-2 wins over Lubbock Christian (Texas) and Georgetown (Kentucky) on Thursday, December 5 to allow the Lady Defenders to advance to the final day of pool play on Friday with a 3-0 record. On Friday Dordt College squared off with Madonna, the fifth seed in the tournament and lost to the Crusaders 3-2, ending pool play with a 3-1 record.

Advancing to the quarterfinal round for the fourth time in school history, the Lady Defenders drew an upstart, unseeded Walsh (Ohio), in the round of eight. Playing their best match of the tournament the Lady Defenders blitzed the Cavaliers from the start and rode the momentum to a 3-0 match win and a first ever berth in the national semifinals.

It was in the Final Four that Dordt College ran into Fresno Pacific and the second rated Sunbirds. Dordt held leads in all three games, but couldn't hold off the experienced and talented California team, losing 3-0 by game scores of 30-26, 30-24, 30-26.

For her efforts Alisa Den Hartog was one of twelve players at nationals to be named to the all-tournament team. Den Hartog averaged 13.7 assists per game at the tournament while Rachel Van Beek and Tara De Boer put down 3.7 kills per game. Rachel Pontier was close behind with 3.5 kills per contest and Lindsey Van Wyk was good for 2.9 kills and 3.5 digs. Tricia Beckering and Jill Bouma were both among the tournament leaders in digs with 6.0 and 5.8 per game respectively.

"The lessons these women learned at this tournament will be so valuable when they prepare for next season," said Coach Tom Van Den Bosch at the conclusion of the four-day tournament.

The Lady Defenders ended their season with a 37-6 record and were 16-0 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference along with winning the post-season tournament. The Lady Defenders have won or shared the conference title three of the four seasons since the GPAC was formed and have won the post-season title those same three years.

Alisa Den Hartog, Tara De Boer, and Rachel Pontier were all named to the conference first team with Den Hartog and De Boer taking NAIA Region IV first team honors and Rachel Pontier taking second team all-region honors. Rachel Van Beek was a second team All-GPAC selection and Lindsey Van Wyk an honorable mention pick.

Pontier also has been named an NAIA Scholar-Athlete. To be eligible for Scholar Athlete honors an athlete must be a junior or senior, maintain at least a 3.5 grade point, make significant contributions to their team and be nominated by their coach. Pontier is a Health/Physical Education/Recreation (HPER) major.

Dordt will lose Den Hartog and Beckering to graduation, and Pontier is the only junior on the roster as the Lady Defenders matched their third highest single season win total with 37. In the last four years the Dordt College record is 138-26.