A season-opening tournament in Kentucky this weekend will provide the Hope College volleyball team with precious little time to fine-tune their game for conference play.

Coach Maureen Dunn's Flying Dutch will play four matches on Friday and Saturday (Sept. 1-2) at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Ky. Then it will be back to Michigan for the start of MIAA play at Albion next Wednesday. The Dutch won't have their home opener until Wednesday, Sept. 13 against Adrian.

A strong contingent of returning letterwinners should put the 2000 Flying Dutch right back in the hunt for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship.

Playing arguably the nation's toughest NCAA Division III schedule, the 1999 Flying Dutch posted an 18-18 record while finishing second in the MIAA standings. On the team's schedule were eight nationally ranked teams, including six in the top ten.

Coach Dunn, who begins her fourth season, will build the team around nine returning letterwinners. Even with those numbers, the team remains relatively young with just three seniors on the pre-season roster.

Setter Kim Grotenhuis of Hamilton, Mich. had an outstanding junior year in athletics, achieving All-MIAA first team honors in both volleyball and softball. He was also named a GTE Academic All-American.

She will co-captain the Flying Dutch with senior teammates Amy Brower of Hamilton, Mich. and Jennifer Gerig of Montague, Mich. Gerig was an All-MIAA second team honoree last fall. Brower missed the 1999 season with a knee injury after achieving All-MIAA second team honors in 1998.

Other returning letterwinners include junior Dawn Allers of St. Anne, Ill., sophomore Karen Clark of Midland, Mich., sophomore Laura Hahnfeld of Midland, Mich., junior Molly Henson of Holland, Mich., sophomore Martha Luidens of Holland, Mich., junior Sarah Schultz of St. Joseph, Mich., and sophomore Kara Van Assen of Jenison, Mich.

The 2000 schedule brings a return to an emphasis on league play with the resumption of home-and-away conference matches instead of a single round. There will still be a season-ending conference tournament to determine the MIAA's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III tournament.