GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The women's volleyball team competed against NCAA Division III No. 1 Calvin in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday night. The Panthers managed to keep up with Calvin in the first two sets, but Calvin separated from GU with a third set win as Greenville dropped the three-set match.
The Panthers opened the night with a 9-5 lead in the first set to force Calvin into taking an early timeout.
Calvin was leading 22-21 when GU managed to force them into taking the second timeout of the set after a run that took Calvin's advantage from 21-17 to 22-21 in a matter of five points.
Greenville eventually dropped set one 25-22 but proved that they were capable of competing with the No. 1 team in the NCAA Division III national poll.
Calvin took the early lead in set number two but the Panthers managed to tie the set at 18-all with Abby Freeman's 600th kill of the season late in the set.
The Panthers secured just two of the final nine points as they ended up dropping the second set 25-20.
In the third set, the Panthers started slowly, calling their first timeout of the match with the score 7-3. They eventually dropped the final set 25-14.
"I was extremely proud of our girls," said head coach Tom Ackerman. "We knew that we couldn't play timid and we had to swing on every ball. Calvin did not disappoint, and they are a phenomenal team."
"At first I was nervous, but I love my team and I love my coaches, and we proved that we can play with the No. 1 team in the country," said Freeman.
"We're ahead in recruiting for next year, and these things are very motivating to get on the phone and add the pieces that we need," said Ackerman. "This is a special team in the way they care about and love each other. We have amazing captains, and its special to win with girls that we love and care about."
Freeman ended the night with a match-high 19 kills, four service aces, and a block assist to finish with 23 1/2 of GU's 56 points. She set school records with 608 kills and 97 service aces this season.
Anna Finch swung at a .373 rate with seven kills in the match and added a solo block.
Allyson Grabowski ended the night with 10 digs.
The Panthers (23-11) concluded their season with their fourth straight NCAA national appearance, their eighth conference championship in nine years, and their ninth straight season with over 20 wins. The match was the final collegiate volleyball match for seniors Whitney Nichols and Jessica Booker.