Three ranked opponents and one from an NCAA Division I await the nationally ranked Hope College women’s tennis team and first-year head coach Bob Cawood.
The Flying Dutch — coming off record-setting and a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic
Association-championship season — relish the upcoming opportunities, beginning with
Saturday’s 3 p.m. home opener against Division I Valparaiso at DeWitt Tennis Center.
“After having such a historic 2017 season, we are hoping to use the momentum from last year and continue that into our 2018 season,” Cawood said. “Our team competed extremely well in the fall at all of our individual tournaments and am really excited to the dual match season this spring.”
After the Valparaiso match, Hope faces ninth-ranked University of Chicago, No. 18 Case Western Reserve, and No. 38 Oberlin among 10 matches before the pursuit of an MIAA title repeat begins.
The Flying Dutch are ranked 21st in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division III women’s rankings.
Cawood said one of the big reasons for scheduling tough competition is so Hope’s players can see where they stand on a national scale.
“We are extremely privileged to have the opportunity to play schools like Valparaiso and other schools,” Cawood said. “Our team will embrace this opportunity and know, in order to be the best you can be, you have to compete against the best. We will compete with respect and humility against these teams. If we compete as hard as we do in practice as we do in our matches, then we will let the chips fall where they may.”
Hope returns six players from a roster that posted the most wins in school history with a 21-4 record and advances to the third round of the NCAA Division III Championship.
The Flying Dutch swept all eight MIAA opponents during the regular reason en route to a third consecutive league title.
Sophomore Amanda Bandrowski of Traverse City, Michigan (St. Francis HS) and Claire
Hallock of Lakeland, Florida (Harrison Center) are the top returners.
Bandrowski set a school record for singles victory with a 27-1 record at No. 2 singles. Hallock equaled the old mark with a 25-2 record at No. 3 singles.
“Both are back where they left off,” Cawood said.
Senior Natalie Rahrig of Fort Wayne, Indiana (Bishop Luers) and junior Taylor LaBarge of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville) will captain the Flying Dutch.
“They have played in the lineup for the majority of their college careers,” Cawood said. “They will provide an incredible backbone for our team.”
Rahrig is Hope’s only senior. Other key returns for the Flying Dutch are junior Erin
LaBarge of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville) and sophomore Liz Pniewski of Lowell,
Michigan (Grand Rapids Catholic Central).
Two newcomers for Hope are freshmen Bailey Chorney of Waunakee, Wisconsin (Waunakee) and Mary DeVries of Brandenberg, Kentucky (Meade County).
“We want to get the most out of the players,” Cawood said. “We believe in them more than anyone. We know they can compete with anyone. It is our mission to get that out of them. Each of the women are incredible people and our staff wants to continue to help them grow as members of this world.”
Cawood returns to his alma mater after previously serving as women’s and men’s assistant coach and a successful playing career for the Flying Dutchmen from the 2009-13.
Cawood is joined by new assistant coach Matt Hamilton, a recent Western Michigan University graduate and former standout for the Broncos.
“I am extremely excited to have Matt on staff this year,” Cawood said, “not just because of his incredible knowledge of the game but because his values fit so perfectly with the values of Hope.”