Three conference titles highlighted a successful winter sports season at Hope College.
For the seventh time in school history, both swimming and diving teams swept the championships of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, while the men's basketball squad claimed a league-record 32nd league crown.
With seven conference championships already won this school year, Hope maintained its lead in the Commissioner's Cup standings which is based on the best cumulative performance in the 18 MIAA-sponsored sports.
Through the winter season Hope also ranked high in a national ranking compiled by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Based on competition in NCAA-sponsored post-season championship opportunities and finishes, Hope ranked 31st among 246 NCAA Division III colleges.
Hope's amazing string of successes in men's basketball under longtime coach Glenn Van Wieren '64 continued. Posting a 21-5 record, the Flying Dutchmen won their 15th MIAA crown in 27 seasons under Van Wieren. Two of the victories were over rival Calvin.
Sophomore Andy Phillips of White Pigeon, Mich., became the 18th Hope player in school history to be voted the MIAA's most valuable player. One of his accomplishments during the season was scoring 45 points in a game, the most-ever on the Holland Civic Center floor by a Hope player. He was also voted to the Great Lakes all-region first team. Receiving All-MIAA honors were juniors Kyle Kleersnyder of Alto, Mich., and Travis Spaman of Allegan, Mich.
With four All-America performances, the women's swimming team finished a top-10 team in NCAA Division III for the 15th time in school history. The success on a national level followed Hope winning its 21st conference championship.
Junior Erika Steele of Portage, Mich., was crowned an NCAA All-American twice, finishing fourth in the 50-yard freestyle and sixth in the 100-yard freestyle at the national meet. Hope also had two All-America relay performances, claiming fifth in the 400-yard freestyle relay and seventh in the 200-yard medley relay. Joining Steele on those teams were sophomore Lisa Ekdom of Holland, Mich., senior Haley Martin of Battle Creek, Mich., freshman Lisa Smith of Dearborn, Mich., and junior Sarah Smith of Dearborn.
In the conference championships, senior Michelle Smith of Olympia, Wash., capped her collegiate career as a four-time MIAA champion in two events -- the 500 and 1,650 freestyle.
Michelle Smith and senior Audrey Arnold of Richmond, Ind., were each named to the All-MIAA team a fourth consecutive year. Joining them on the honor squad were Ekdom, sophomore Meagan O'Neil of Troy, Mich., Lisa Smith and Erika Steele.
In men's swimming, the Flying Dutchmen snapped Kalamazoo's string of eight consecutive conference championships by winning their eighth in school history. In 24 seasons under coach John Patnott, Hope's swimming/diving teams (men and women) have been MIAA champions 27 times, ranking him third all-time among MIAA coaches in all sports.
The Flying Dutchmen went on to finish 16th at the NCAA Division III championships. The 400-yard freestyle relay achieved All-America honors by finishing seventh with a team of sophomore Kurt Blohm of Wilmington, Ohio, junior Jeff Heydlauff of Chelsea, Mich., sophomore David Ornee of Holland, Mich., and senior Chris Hamstra of Zeeland, Mich.
Six swimmers achieved All-MIAA honors -- Blohm, senior Ross Geurink of Hudsonville, Mich., Hamstra, Heydlauff, senior Ian Kobes of Holland, Mich., and junior Matt Waterstone of Holland, Mich. Kobes was a four-time conference champion in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke.
In the pre-season, many perceived this year's Flying Dutch basketball program as being in a rebuilding mode. That turned out to be the farthest from the truth as the Flying Dutch recorded their sixth consecutive 20-win season behind a 23-4 record. At one point in the season, the team had extended its regular season winning streak to a school-record 40 consecutive games. In eight seasons, Brian Morehouse '91 has guided the Flying Dutch to a 178-46 record to rank in the top 10 among NCAA Division coaches.
All-MIAA recognitions gave evidence that Flying Dutch are also viewed as a team for the future as four players -- all underclassmen -- were honored. First team honorees included sophomore Bria Ebels of Holland, Mich., and junior Adelynn Vilmann of Houghton, Mich., while named to the second team were sophomore Linda Ebels of Falmouth, Mich., and junior Kelly Taylor of Farmington, Mich.
Ice hockey is a club sport at Hope College that continues to make an impact on a national level. Playing in the national tournament of the American Collegiate Hockey Association for a third consecutive year, the Flying Dutchmen finished fifth in the 16-team Division III field. MIAA rival Calvin won the national championship with the Knights' only loss the entire season coming to Hope. Sophomore Kye Samuelson of Maplewood, Minn., was named to the all-tournament team.