The Hope College women’s soccer team is aiming to control the game in the middle of the field this season.
A deep roster, stacked with interchangeable midfielders, will be a focal point for
coach Leigh Sears and the Flying Dutch as they aim to repeat as Michigan Intercollegiate
Athletic Association champions and return to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
“We have so many players. Those midfielders can slide around,” said Sears, who is in her 17th season at Hope College. “We’re two-deep in every spot. The depth allows us to work harder longer. We can take a player out, put another in, and there’s no dropoff. We know we can give them a break and the next player is working just as hard and being as good.”
The Flying Dutch bring a roster of 29 players to the 2017 season, only four of which are seniors: defender Mallory Beswick of Grand Haven, Michigan (Grand Haven HS), forward Erin Brophy of West Lafayette, Indiana (West Lafayette), goalie Mary Clare Theis of East Lansing, Michigan (Haslett), and forward Allie Wittenbach of Ada, Michigan (Forest Hills Central).
Hope kicks off the 2017 season on Friday-Saturday, September 1-2 with matches against Milwaukee School of Engineering and Lake Forest, Illinois, in Milwaukee.
The 2017 home opener for the Flying Dutch is Saturday, September 9 against Adrian at Van Andel Soccer Stadium. Five of Hope’s first six matches are on the road.
Brophy is a returning all-region and All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association first-team player. She was second on the team last season with 11 goals and six assists. Wittenbach was an All-MIAA second-team selection after collecting seven goals and five assists.
Hope graduated its leading goalscorer, Elizabeth Perkins, whose 25 goals were tied for the most in NCAA Division III after the regular season. Perkins was a first-team all-region player and 2016 MIAA MVP for the Flying Dutch, who finished with a 15-4-2 overall record.
A third all-region honoree, midfielder Natalie Curry, also graduated.
Hope must contend with a season-ending injury for Beswick, a leader on defense. Because of the team’s depth in the midfield, junior Morgan Buursma of Grandville, Michigan (Calvin Christian) is moving over to replace Beswick.
“Morgan’s got the ability to slide back there,” Sears said. “We have a lot of depth in our juniors. They’re starting to play juniors. They had a really good spring and came out ready to go this fall.”
Thirteen of Hope’s players are juniors. There are four sophomores and seven freshmen.
Buursma, Curry and midfielder Rylie Dalton of Rockford, Michigan (Rockford), bring the experience of playing in all 21 matches for the Flying Dutch last season.