A theme of Hope sports teams in recent years has been "Keep Your Eye on the Prize."
That certainly was the case for Hope teams this fall as they once again eyed the top prize of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) with many outstanding performances in several sports.
The result was Hope gaining the lead in every MIAA all- sports category after the fall season. It is a fitting start to Hope's year-long celebration of its 75 years of membership in the MIAA.
The MIAA presents the Commissioner's Cup to the member school with the best cumulative finishes in all 18 league- sponsored sports as well as separate men's and women's all-sports awards. Hope swept all three awards last year and is the MIAA's all-time All-Sports leader having achieved the honor 23 times.
This fall Hope won conference championships in men's and women's golf and were co-champions in volleyball. Hope finished second in the league standings in men's cross country, football and men's soccer, finished third in women's cross country and ended in a tie for fifth in women's soccer.
Hope's golf teams dominated the links, the Flying Dutch capturing the women's MIAA championship with a storybook finish and the Flying Dutchmen maintaining its tradition of excellence in men's competition.
Coming into the women's conference tournament, the Flying Dutch ranked fourth. Under a new league format, the scores from regular season matches were not to be part of the final seasonal standings. After the first day of the conference tournament, Hope was in third place trailing the leader Albion by 20 strokes. But a never-say-die attitude found the Dutch gaining 22 strokes on leader to claim the championship!
The championship was Hope's sixth since women's golf became an intercollegiate sport in 1991. The team was guided by first-year coach Tom Smith, a professor of business administration at Hope.
Sophomore Lacey Wicksall of Traverse City, Mich. achieved All- MIAA first team distinction for the second consecutive year as she finished second in the player standings. Junior Emily Colenbrander of Holland, Mich. gained All-MIAA second team recognition by finishing tenth.
The Flying Dutchmen captured their third consecutive MIAA men's golf championship, but not without a challenge from the field. It took a course-record performance in the season's final tournament to gain the crown, the ninth in school history.
Senior Eric Wohlfield of Brighton, Mich. became just the third player in MIAA history to be league medalist three times. He also become the first Hope male golfer to be a four-time All-MIAA first team honoree. In four seasons he averaged a league-record 74.4 strokes per 18-hole tournament round.
Wohlfield was joined on the All-MIAA first team by freshman Ryan Shedd of Coldwater, Mich. who was fourth in the player standings. Three golfers achieved All-MIAA second team honors -- sophomore Jeff Melville of Grandville, Mich., freshman Kody Taylor of Greenville, Mich., and junior Patrick Looman of Holland, Mich.
The Flying Dutch captured the MIAA volleyball championship for the fifth time in six seasons sharing the top prize with Alma. Head coach Maureen Dunn spent a good share of the fall on maternity leave after giving birth to her first child in the early weeks of the season, leaving the team in the able hands of assistant Jill Vredevelt '87 VanderStoep.
The Flying Dutch posted a season mark of 20-14, marking the fourth time in the last five seasons that the team has won 20 or more matches. Hope stands 130-52 over those five seasons, including 58-6 against MIAA opponents.
Senior Amy Brower of Hamilton, Mich. was voted the MIAA's most valuable player. She was joined on the All-MIAA first team by junior Kara Van Assen of Jenison, Mich. Voted to the All-MIAA second team were juniors Laura Hahnfeld of Midland, Mich. and Martha Luidens of Holland, Mich.
As it has in many recent years, the MIAA championship came down to a season-ending showdown between rivals Hope and Albion. The Britons prevailed in this year's battle of league unbeatens, but it didn't dim an exciting season which saw the Flying Dutchmen string together seven consecutive victories.
Coach Dean Kreps' Dutchmen rode the arm of a young quarterback and the hands of two veteran receivers in gaining a 7-2 season record.
When the season began, sophomore Phil Butler of Howard City, Mich. was the backup quarterback. He stepped into the starting lineup after Hope suffered a season-opening loss and by the time the year was over had inked his name of several school passing records, including attempted (289), completed (159), yards (2,156) and touchdowns (23).
Hope was blessed with two outstanding senior receivers, Brian Adloff of East Grand Rapids, Mich. and Mike Gle of Brighton, Mich. Adloff was voted the most valuable offensive player in the MIAA and became only the third player in league history to achieve all-conference honors four consecutive years. One of the other four-time honorees was Hope's Nick Yonker '00 (1946-49). Ending his career with school records for receptions (211) and yards (2,616), he was invited to play in the Aztec Bowl featuring the nation's top Division III players. Gle entered the Hope record book for touchdown passes in a season (13) and for a career (18).
Hope's All-MIAA first team honorees included Adloff, junior punter Vince Scheffler of Chelsea, Mich., junior defensive end Andy Keller of Hastings, Mich., and junior defensive back Nick Conrad of Wyoming, Mich.
Hope players voted to the All-MIAA team were senior offensive linemen Brian Hammer of Caledonia, Mich. and Bill Crane of Cedar Springs, Mich., junior center Josh Rumpsa of Grand Rapids, Mich., sophomore tailback John Sloothaak of Hamilton, Mich., junior defensive lineman Ryan Kerstetter of Kentwood, Mich., senior defensive lineman Pat Warren of New Lothrop, Mich., sophomore Linebacker Matt Beaver of Gladwin, Mich., senior defensive back Vinnie Harambasic of Troy, Mich., Phil Butler and Mike Gle.
The Flying Dutchmen were stingy when it came to allowing goals and productive when it came to putting the ball in the net. Coach Steven Smith's Dutchmen finished second in the MIAA standings and ended with an overall 16-3-1 mark.
The team posted 13 shutouts on the season tying a school record set by the 1992 team. On offense, a total of 19 different players scored a goal.
Five players were voted All-MIAA. First team honorees included sophomore forward Ed Huebner, senior midfielder Tim Keeler and senior back Jon Kucinski, all from Portage, Mich., and junior goalkeeper Marcus Voss of Zeeland, Mich. Junior back Matt Margaron of Naperville, Ill. was named to the second All-MIAA team.
The Flying Dutch tied for fifth place in the MIAA women's soccer standings and posted an overall 7-11-1 record. Voted to the All- MIAA second team were seniors Liz Dornbos of Vicksburg, Mich. and Beth Stygstra of Holland, Mich.
Senior Dylan Wade of Beulah, Mich. headlined the cross country season. He became the sixth Hope athlete to achieve All-MIAA honors four consecutive years and qualified for the NCAA Division III championships, finishing 91st in a field of 211 runners.
The Flying Dutchmen finished second in the MIAA men's standings while the Flying Dutch were third among the women.
Hope runners gaining All-MIAA second team recognition in men's cross country were seniors Keith Cravotta of Sussex, N.J. and Dane Splinter of Libertyville, Ill. Five Hope runners achieved All-MIAA second team honors in women's cross country -- freshman Martha Bouwens of Zeeland, Mich., senior Sarah Golden of Traverse City, Mich., sophomore Martha Graham of Midland, Mich., freshman Tina Pike of Rochester, Minn., and junior Kristen Post of Holland, Mich.