The combination of repeat performances and several first-time accomplishments led to a successful spring sports season that was key in Hope College celebrating another championship year in athletics.
For an 11th consecutive year Hope has won the Commissioner’s Cup of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), but achieving it was no small task.
The Commissioner’s Cup is presented to the MIAA-member school with the best cumulative finish across the 18 league-sponsored sports for men and women. Hope’s long string of Commissioner’s Cup success was in serious jeopardy through the winter sports campaign as rival Calvin held a sizeable point advantage.
Unprecedented success across the board among the spring sports teams sparked the “rally” with Hope claiming The Cup for a record 33rd time in school history.
Headlining spring performances was the men’s track and field team which for the first time in a quarter of a century claimed a share of the MIAA championship. Late-season rallies keyed second rallies in both baseball and softball. The women’s tennis team also finished second while the men’s tennis squad ended third.
The men’s track and field co-championship with rival Calvin was Hope’s first since 1986. Coach Kevin Cole was a member of that 80s championship team. In his six seasons as head coach track and field has experienced a resurgence with numerous national qualifiers and school records established. The year’s Flying Dutch placed second in the MIAA women’s track and field standings.
Track and field also dominated the list of spring accomplishments. Senior Nicholas Rinck of Hudsonville, Mich. became the first Hope male athlete to win an event (400 meter hurdles) at the MIAA championships four consecutive years. Two-sport athlete Kara Vande Gutche of Hamilton, Mich. achieved All-MIAA honors in track and field four consecutive years and became just the ninth Hope athlete all-time to receive all-league honors six times over her career, having received the designation twice in volleyball. Rinck, Vande Gutche and senior Heidi Grooters of Jenison, Mich. each received MIAA most valuable trackster awards.
Senior high jumper John Donkersloot of Zeeland, Mich. excelled at nationals with an All-America performance (fourth place) for a third consecutive year.
History was also made in softball. Senior Andrea Reinecke of Eaton Rapids, Mich. threw the first perfect game by a Hope softball pitcher against an MIAA opponent when she blanked Kalamazoo 10-0. It capped an outstanding season under first-year coach Mary Vande Hoef who guided the Flying Dutch to a 25-15-1 season mark behind a base-running style that resulted in a record 90 stolen bases.
Junior pitcher Adam Clements of Saline, Mich. was brilliant on the mound as he achieved All-MIAA and All-Region baseball honors behind a sterling 1.29 earned run average. His 7-3 record was instrumental in Hope’s second place MIAA finish and overall 26-14 mark under veteran coach Stu Fritz.
Both tennis teams were competitive against conference opponents. The race to the MIAA women’s tennis championship came down to a single point with Albion prevailing over the Flying Dutch, 5-4. Katherine Garcia of Battle Creek, Mich., the only senior on the women’s tennis ended her career with an outstanding 73-21 record in doubles play. The Flying Dutchmen tennis team continued to excel on the court and in the classroom. Senior Brad Boelkins of Ada, Mich. received the MIAA’s Lawrence Green Scholar Award and senior co-captain Jeff Vredenburg of Grand Rapids, Mich. was named a national Fulbright Scholar.
Excellence extended beyond Hope’s intercollegiate program as evidenced this spring by its club lacrosse teams.
The women’s lacrosse team, under first-year coach Tracy Benjamin, advanced to the tournament of the Women's Collegiate Lacrosse League for the first time in school history and finished the season with an 11-3 record.
Men’s lacrosse, which has been part of the Hope club landscape since the 1970s, received a first-time bid to the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association tournament and concluded the year ranked in the top ten nationally with a 12-3-1 record under coach Mike Schanhals.
Senior captain Eric Weber of Saline, Mich., pictured above, earned first team All-American MCLA honors for a third straight year and ended his collegiate career as the all-time leader in goals scored (303) among all levels of college lacrosse.