Hope athletic teams begin their respective seasons with specific goals the athletes and coaches aspire to attain. The ultimate goal is the opportunity to play in post-season NCAA championships. Athletes in four of Hope’s eight fall sports teams had that opportunity.
Teams in men’s soccer and volleyball gained automatic berths in the NCAA Division III tournaments as representatives of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA). Runners in women’s and men’s cross country ran with the nation’s elite after qualifying at the Great Lakes Regional, which Hope hosted.
The regular-season race toward the Commissioner’s Cup of the MIAA is once again a showdown between two rivals. The Cup’s standings are determined by the best cumulative finishes in the league’s 18 sports for men and women. Through the fall, Calvin has a four-point lead over defending champion Hope.
An amazing second-half run of seven consecutive victories pulled the Flying Dutchmen from the middle of the standings to the top as MIAA men’s soccer co-champions with rival Calvin. Two of Hope’s regular-season victories were over Calvin. The team’s MIAA championship-clinching win was the 200th in league play under coach Steven Smith, who became just the third coach in the 40-year history of MIAA soccer to reach that milestone. The Flying Dutchmen, who finished with a 13-6-2 record, lost 1-0 to North Park, Ill., in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Junior goalkeeper Logan Neil of Holland, Mich., was voted the MIAA’s most valuable player. He was joined on the All-MIAA first team by senior mid-fielder Shaun Groetsema of Augusta, Mich., and junior back David Whitaker of Vicksburg, Mich.
Logan Neil and his father, Hope’s men’s basketball coach Matt Neil ’82, have the distinction of being the first father-son Hope athletes to receive All-MIAA MVP honors. Matt was selected the MIAA’s most valuable basketball player his senior season.
The Flying Dutch finished seventh in the MIAA women’s soccer standings and posted an overall 6-9-3 record. Senior Courtney Cook of Grand Rapids, Mich., was voted to the All-MIAA team for the third time in her career. A season highlight was marking the 100th victory over nine years under coach Leigh Sears.
Nationally ranked throughout the season, the Flying Dutch posted two victories over rival Calvin late in the season to gain a conference co-championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year. The Flying Dutch, who finished with a 27-4 record, advanced to the second round of the playoffs before bowing.
Senior Jacie Fiedler of Richmond, Ill., was named a second-team Division III All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Teammates Greer Bratschie, a sophomore setter from East Grand Rapids, Mich., and Cassidy Bulthuis, a senior outside hitter from Nunica, Mich., received honorable mention All-America recognition. Fiedler and Bratschie earlier were named to the All-MIAA first team.
For the first time in more than 20 years, Hope was host to nearly 500 runners for the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional. The home course was to the liking of Hope’s athletes. The Flying Dutch qualified as a team for the national championships for the first time in 12 years, while the Flying Dutchmen advanced a runner to the finals for the third time in five years.
The Flying Dutch finished 19th in a field of 32 women’s teams at the championship meet. Hope finishers among the 279 runners were junior Kelly Luftkin of Houghton, Mich, 69th; sophomore Taylor Mattarella of Traverse City, Mich., 80th; junior Karlyn Sikma of Grand Rapids, Mich., 100th; sophomore Sharon Hecker of Grandville, Mich., 103rd; freshman Camille Borst of Allendale, Mich., 110th; senior Emily Fischer of Naperville, Ill., 138th; and junior Kate Nelson of Williamston, Mich., 178th. Junior Nate Love of Midland, Mich. was 61st in the field of 279 runners in the men’s championship. Fischer, Hecker, Mattarella, Love and Luftkin received All-MIAA first team honors.
Senior Chris Ansel of Zeeland, Mich., maintained a tradition of golf excellence at Hope by winning MIAA medalist honors. The Flying Dutchmen finished third in the team standings, while Ansel topped all players with a seasonal average of 72.5 strokes over eight tournaments. He was joined on the All-MIAA squad by junior teammate Nick Campbell of Saline, Mich., who was a first-team honoree for the second time. Ansel’s medalist honors marked the 12th time in the last 13 years that a Hope golfer has led the MIAA field.
For the third consecutive year, the Flying Dutch finished third in the seasonal MIAA women’s golf standings.
The Flying Dutchmen were .500 in conference games, but for the third consecutive year finished with a 3-7 overall record.
Four players received All-MIAA first-team honors for a second consecutive year: senior wide receiver Kyle Dietrich of Gobles, Mich.; junior offensive tackle Josh Droppers of Kalamazoo, Mich.; senior linebacker Zach Jones of Three Rivers, Mich.; and senior defensive back Kyle Warren of Grandville, Mich.
Dietrich, who set a Hope career record for pass reception yardage, and Jones, the MIAA’s leading tackler as a junior and senior, were invited to play in post-season Division III all-star football games.