Conference titles in three sports and the opportunity to compete in post-season NCAA championships highlighted a successful fall season by Hope athletes.
Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) champions were crowned in football, men's golf and men's soccer.
The storyline in a championship football season was one of not giving up. The Flying Dutchmen lost their first three non-conference games, but came back to win seven in-a-row in the MIAA. The championship was the fifth in 12 years under coach Dean Kreps and the 19th in school history. The title also qualified the Flying Dutchmen for the NCAA Division III playoffs. Seeded eighth in the region, Hope lost to defending national champion MountUnion in the first round 49-0.
Consistency was the theme in men's golf as the Flying Dutchmen won the MIAA championship with record numbers for a fourth straight year and for the seventh time in eight seasons. The team also qualified for the NCAA championships next spring.
The same was true in men's soccer as the Flying Dutchmen repeated as conference champions and competed in the NCAA playoffs for the fourth time in five years. In a first round game, the Flying Dutchmen battled Ohio Wesleyan to a 1-1 draw, but lost in a sudden death shootout 5-3.
A successful season in volleyball earned the team a berth in the NCAA tournament. Rival Calvin was Hope's nemesis. The Knights edged the Flying Dutch in the regular season MIAA standings, won a marathon five-game set in the finals of the conference tournament and then a week later topped the orange-and-blue in the NCAA regional tournament.
Hope qualified two runners for the NCAA men's cross country championships. Senior Ryan TerLouw of Pella, Iowa finished 77th in the elite field while junior Seth Weener of Grandville, Mich. was 20th.
In other fall sports, the women's soccer and men's and women's cross country teams finished second in their respective MIAA standings. The season came to an abrupt end for the women's golf team. While en route to the conference tournament, the team's van was involved in an accident. There were no serious injuries, but the team was unable to continue on to the tournament.
The fall season ended with Hope atop the MIAA Commissioner's Cup standings. It is a familiar position for the Hope athletic program which has claimed the league's highest honor a record 28 times.
Three Hope athletes received conference most valuable player recognition - golfer Matt Lapham, a junior from Brighton, Mich.; football defensive lineman Matt Rugenstein of Grand Rapids, Mich.; and junior soccer player Dan Tresslar of Bloomington, Ind.
Hope's athletic tradition came to the forefront in football when junior offensive tackle Jacob (Jake) Droppers of Kalamazoo, Mich. became the third member of his family to receive All-MIAA honors. His father Curt '79 was an All-MIAA defensive lineman and his grandfather Don "Doc" Van Hoeven '56 received all-conference honors as a lineman in 1955.
All-conference first team honors came in abundance:
Football - junior tailback David Booko of Three Rivers, Mich.; junior offensive tackle Jacob "Jake" Droppers of Kalamazoo, Mich.; sophomore offensive tackle Eric Ladomersky and junior tight end Kevin VandenBosch of Grandville, Mich.; junior defensive lineman Matt Rugenstein of senior linebacker Zach Huizing of Grand Rapids; and junior return specialist Joey Goeb of Grand Rapids, Mich.
Soccer - junior midfielder Dan Tresslar of Bloomington, Ind.; sophomore forward Jack Abe of Naperville, Ill.; senior back Patrick McMahon of Grand Rapids, Mich.; senior back Craig Root of Holland, Mich.; junior goalkeeper Mike Amerman of Indianapolis, Ind.; sophomore midfielder Allison Van Beek of Libertyville, Ill. and junior forward Sarah Cochrane of Clinton Township, Mich.
Volleyball - seniors Deena Van Assen and Amber Hoezee, both from Jenison, Mich.
Cross Country - senior Ryan TerLouw of Pella, Iowa and junior Seth Weener of Grandville, Mich.
Golf - junior Matt Lapham of Brighton, Mich.; senior Nate Golomb of Schoolcraft, Mich.; and junior Tommy Yamaoka of Zeeland, Mich.