Hope College launches its volleyball season on Labor Day weekend by playing four matches at the 10-team Elmhurst, Ill. Invitational.

On Friday, Aug. 29 the Flying Dutch will meet Carthage, Wisc. (4 p.m. CT) followed by a match against Transylvania, Ky. (6 p.m. CT).  Saturday matches will pit Hope against host Elmhurst (10 a.m. CT) and Coe, Iowa (noon CT).

The Flying Dutch will make their home debut on Tuesday, Sept. 9 against Saint Mary's.

With a strong core of returning players, the Flying Dutch will be seeking to maintain the momentum of a string of successful seasons.  In four seasons under coach Becky Schmidt, the Flying Dutch have averaged 24 victories a year. The 2007 Flying Dutch posted a 24-9 record, finishing second in the MIAA.

The 10-team varsity is built around eight returning letterwinners, including five starters from a year ago. There are no freshmen on the varsity.  Rounding out the team are five sophomores, three juniors and two seniors.

Co-captains of the team are junior Andrea Helminiak of Maumee, Ohio (Anthony Wayne HS) and senior Nora Slenk of Holland, Mich. (Holland Christian HS).  Last season Slenk was voted to the All-MIAA first team while Helminiak received second team honors. The team's setter, Helminiak was twice named the MIAA specialty player of the week. She ranked second in the MIAA in assists, averaging 12.76 assists per game. She also ranked among the nation's Division III leaders (38th at 11.58 assists per game overall). Slenk was honored as an MIAA player of the week.

Sophomore Kara Vande Guchte of Hamilton, Mich. (Hamilton HS) had an outstanding first collegiate season. She was chosen the MIAA's freshman player of the year and received All-MIAA second team honors. She led the MIAA in hitting percentage. Vande Guchte also received All-MIAA honors in track & field as an outstanding sprinter/hurdler.

Other returning letterwinners include junior Teresa Borst of Zeeland, Mich. (Zeeland East HS), sophomore Cassidy Bulthuis of Nunica, Mich. (Spring Lake HS), sophomore Sara DeWeerdt of Holland, Mich. (Hamilton HS), junior Kristen Johnson of Naperville, Ill. (Wheaton Academy) and senior Meghan Winer of Ada, Mich. (Forest Hills Central HS).

The NCAA has adopted three rule changes for the 2008 season - the term "game" will be replaced with "set," all but fifth sets (which go to 15 points or until a team leads by two points after a tie at 14-all) will be trimmed from 30 points to 25, and the number of rotations per set will be dropped from 15 to 12.