The Flying Dutch will be seeking to repeat as champions of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).
Coach Becky Schmidt returns a core of veterans who will be seeking to maintain the momentum of a string of successful seasons.
In five seasons under coach Schmidt, the Flying Dutch have averaged 24 victories a year. The 2008 Flying Dutch posted a 26-7 record, won 15-of-16 conference matches and were ranked 20th in NCAA Division III by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
The 2009 team will be built around eight returning letterwinners, including five starters from a year ago. The pre-season roster includes 21 freshman prospects, seven sophomores, eight juniors and three seniors.
Co-captains of the team will be seniors Teresa Borst of Zeeland (Zeeland East HS) and Andrea Helminiak of Maumee, Ohio (Anthony Wayne HS).
Three returning players received All-MIAA honors in 2008. Junior middle hitter Kara VandeGuchte of Hamilton (Hamilton HS) is a two-time All-MIAA player receiving second team honors as a freshman and first team recognition last fall. Helminiak, the Flying Dutch setter, was All-MIAA first team last fall while junior outside hitter Cassidy Bulthuis of Nunica (Spring LakeHS) received All-MIAA second team recognition. VandeGuchte and Helminiak each received all-region honors from the AVCA.
VandeGuchte is also an outstanding heptathlete on Hope's track and field team. She competed at the NCAA Division III championships last spring.
Other returning letterwinners include junior Traci Baker of Grandville (Tri-Unity Christian HS), junior Sara DeWeerdt of Holland (Hamilton HS), senior Kristen Johnson of Naperville, Ill. (Wheaton Academy), and junior Carrie Lehocky of Byron Center (Byron Center HS).
The 2008 Flying Dutch ranked among the nation's Division III in several team and individual categories - third in kills per set (13.44 per set), sixth in assists per set (12.12), and Andrea Helminiak, 14th among setters averaging 10.47 assists per set.