Despite different backgrounds, volleyball seniors bring team together for historic season.
By Autumn Zigterman and Jason Stormer
In little over a week’s time, the Bethel volleyball team has provided arguably the most exciting five matches in its history. After losing in the MIAC championship game on Nov. 7, the Royals received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, playing and winning in the first three rounds at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. Their postseason run will continue on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Michigan as the Royals face Hendrix College from Conway, Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals. It’s the deepest any Royal volleyball team has ever been, and is a fitting end to the careers of seniors Nicole Deberry, Hannah Grow, Kali Johnson and Kristi Lauwers. Once complete strangers hailing from different parts of the country, these seniors have contributed on and off the court to a season and a four-years that will not soon be forgotten.
“My favorite thing is seeing the difference of when they were freshmen to seniors,” head coach Gretchen Hunt said. “They were excited, because they were freshmen, and they turned into people that I would want to be friends with forever.”
Kristi Lauwers was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. She often reminiscences about her childhood that usually consisted of clam digging, fishing, hiking or attending sporting events with her family. It also wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see moose walking down the street. Ever since she can remember, volleyball has been a major part of her life. It wasn’t until she began playing in 5th grade, when she joined her first organized volleyball team. Lauwers knew about Bethel because her dad attended in his college days. Towards the end of her high school career, she attended a volleyball camp at Bethel, which gave her an opportunity to meet the coaches. She knew right then that Bethel was the place for her.
Nicole Deberry’s childhood in Libertyville, Ill. was filled with volleyball, gymnastics, and hanging out with friends. She loved going to the recreation center to use the rock climbing wall and she began playing volleyball as a freshman in high school. Her favorite pasttime was going to the apple orchard in the fall with her extended family. What Deberry misses the most back home is being with her parents, two younger siblings and her dog.
Growing up in western Michigan, Grow is excited to return to the spot where her volleyball career began for the Elite 8, playing less than 15 minutes away from her hometown. As a child, Grow and her friends were part of a world record in having the most people swing dancing in one spot. Every fall in Ada, she would stroll throughout downtown, looking at all the displayed art at the annual “Art Prize” event. She has always been close to her family and misses them and her dogs when she’s away at school, specifically their tradition of going up north to their cottage in Ludington, Michigan. Grow will be graduating with an Athletic Training major and hopes to get her masters in the public health area. Although Grow would love to move back to Michigan, she is getting married in the near future and her plans remain unknown.
Hailing from Tacoma, Washington, Kali Johnson has been playing volleyball ever since she can remember. Her dad used to play volleyball and taught her everything she knows. Besides volleyball, Johnson spent a lot of her days camping and hiking. She was always close to her family, being the youngest of six kids. Every summer, Johnson and her family take a trip down the Pacific Coast for a week and rent a beach house on the Pacific Ocean.