Coming off the winningest season in Hope men's soccer history, the nationally ranked Hope College men's soccer team approaches the 2003 season with high expectations.

Coming off the winningest season in Hope men's soccer history, the nationally ranked Hope College men's soccer team approaches the 2003 season with high expectations.

The new season sort of begins where it left off. Last November Hope's season ended in the Regional finals of the NCAA Division III championships with a heartbreaking shootout loss to Wheaton. On Friday, Sept. 5, the Flying Dutchmen launch their 2003 campaign by meeting the same Thunder team in Wheaton, Ill. It will be the beginning of a two-day classic at the Illinois school. The other teams in the tournament are St. John's, Minn. and Hardin-Simmins, Tex.

Hope is ranked 20th in the pre-season Division III poll of the National Soccer Coaches Association. Wheaton is ranked fifth.

In 2002 coach Steve Smith's Flying Dutchmen set a Hope single season record for victories, posting a 17-5-1 record. The Dutchmen were MIAA co-champions with Kalamazoo and advanced to the Regional finals of the NCAA tournament. Gone are nine seniors, including All-American goalkeeper Marcus Voss.

Coach Smith, who begins his 14th season at the helm of the team, counts 18 returning letterwinners on a roster of 28 players. The roster includes seven seniors, four juniors, eight sophomores and nine freshmen.

Tri-captains of the team are seniors Kevney Dugan of Holland, Mich. (Holland Christian HS), Ed Huebner of Portage, Mich. (Portage No. HS), and Steve Lepper of Midland, Mich. (Dow HS).

Leading the returnees are three players who achieved All-MIAA honors. Midfielder Ed Huebner was voted to the first team for the third consecutive year. Voted to the All-MIAA second team were junior forward Tyler Basler of Bay City, Mich. (Bay City Western HS) and senior back Steve Lepper. A four-year starter, Huebner was also voted to the All-Region team for a second consecutive year.

Other returning senior letterwinners are Kyle Nevenzel of Holland, Mich. (Holland HS), Eric Plewka of Whitehall, Mich. (Whitehall HS), Chris Sterling of Montego Bay, Jamaica (Cornwall HS), and Aaron Viles of Montague, Mich. (Montague HS).

The long list of returning letterwinners includes junior John Boote of Holland (Holland HS), sophomore Kevin Butterfield of Zanesville, Ohio (Zanesville HS), junior Todd Chappa of Portage, Mich. (Portage Northern HS), sophomore David Gonthier of Holland, Mich. (West Ottawa HS), sophomore Karter Klingenberg, Mich. of Holland (Holland Christian HS), brothers Phil (sophomore) and Steve (senior) Lepper of Midland, Mich. (Midland HS), sophomore Devin McNeil of Lansing, Mich. (DeWitt HS), sophomore Geoff Meyer of Grand Rapids, Mich. (Forest Hills Northern HS), junior Dan Olson of Mason, Mich. (Mason HS), and sophomore Craig Root of Holland (Holland HS).

Tyler Basler and Dan Olson each had outstanding sophomore seasons, scoring 10 goals apiece as the Flying Dutchmen outscored their opponents 73-15. Kevney Dugan enjoyed the distinction of playing on MIAA championship teams and in the NCAA championships in two sports, soccer and tennis. Four returning players received MIAA Player of the Week honors in 2002. Ed Huebner was honored twice and has been the MIAA Player of the Week four times in his career. Also honored last year were Tyler Basler, Steve Lepper and Dan Olson. Ed Huebner was voted the team's most valuable offensive player while Todd Chappa received the honored as the most improved player.

The home portion of the season begins with the Cal Bergsma Memorial Tournament on Sept. 12-13. Several of the potential non-league opponents are teams that played in the NCAA tournament last year. The Flying Dutchmen will have to play four of their first six conference games on the road, including back-to-back contests at Calvin and Kalamazoo. The two perennial league rivals will come to Holland in November. New to schedule is future MIAA member Tri- State, Ind.