posted June 3, 2009

Spring Sports Season in Review

History has shown that it takes a collection of individual and team accomplishments to build Hope's successful intercollegiate program, and the 2009 spring sports season at Hope College was a perfect example of just that.

Honors at the conference and national level this past spring provided the capstone for Hope athletes to maintain the college's long established tradition of excellence.

It was highlighted by Hope winning the Commissioner's Cup of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) for a ninth consecutive year and the 31st time in school history, a conference record.  A year ago Hope shared the Commissioner's Cup with rival Calvin, but that clearly wasn't the case this year as the Flying Dutchmen and Flying Dutch each finished atop their respective MIAA All-Sports standings.

The list of accomplishments is innumerable.

The Flying Dutch won the MIAA women's tennis championship for the first time in a decade, but it was the story behind the victories that should be told.  Midway through an undefeated conference season, head coach Karen Page had to leave the team to undergo emergency surgery in her ongoing struggle against cancer.  The team rallied behind assistant coach Dwayne "Tiger" Teusink '58 and in support of Coach Page to win the MIAA tournament and earn a berth in the NCAA Championships where they advanced to the second round. Coach Page was able to join the team at the national tournament.

Hope crowned its first national champion in women's track and field.  Senior Nora Kuiper of Parchment, Mich., won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the Division III championships.  A Phi Beta Kappa chemistry major, she came back just an hour later to take the silver medal in the 200-meter dash.

Nora Kuiper was one of four senior spring sports athletes to receive most valuable player awards from the MIAA.  She was joined by tennis standout Samantha (Sammy) Stille of Holland, Mich., and John Pelton of Rock Hill, S.C., and softball first baseman Kelli Duimstra of Hudsonville, Mich.

Stille was a four-year All-MIAA honoree while Pelton, an All-American, became the first MIAA player from a school other than KalamazooCollege to win back-to-back most valuable player awards.  He was undefeated against conference opponents in both 2008 and 2009, another first for a Hope tennis player. This spring he put together a string of 20 consecutive victories before bowing in the round of 16 at the NCAA championships.

The Flying Dutch set a season record for home runs (30), including 11in a doubleheader against Albion.  Kelli Duimstra set Hope (10) and MIAA (7) homerun records en route to being named a first-team Division III All-American.

John Donkersloot, a multi-talented sophomore from Zeeland, Mich., won the bronze medal in the high jump at the NCAA track and field championships. A chemistry major, Donkersloot is also an accomplished pianist who was featured at the college's Musical Showcase concert and was chosen to attend a master class with an internationally acclaimed pianist.

The baseball team finished the season strong to gain a .500 record (20-20). At one point the team was seven games below the .500 mark.  A season highlight was the no-hitter thrown by sophomore Derek Fairchild of Saline, Mich.  The 8-0 gem against Albion was the sixth in school history.

The club men's lacrosse team qualified for the Collegiate Conference Lacrosse Association tournament for the first time, advancing to the semi-finals. Sophomores Eric Weber of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Duncan Wierengo of East Grand Rapids, Mich., were named MCLA All-Americans. Weber led the nation in scoring with 77 goals in 12 games.

The accomplishments of the spring went beyond scores and statistics.  The men's tennis team was honored nationally in April for its sportsmanship in a 5-4 dual match loss by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.  John Pelton received the MIAA's Stowe Sportsmanship Award and the Arthur Ashe, Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award for the Central Region.

Sometimes success comes from unexpected places, especially when recruiting student-athletes to a Division III (non-scholarship) college like Hope.   Hope's coaches work tirelessly recruiting student-athletes to develop their programs. The story of Leonie Grosse, an international student from Everswinkel, Germany, is outside the recruiting norm.  During the school year she contacted track coach Kevin Cole to ask if she could borrow a javelin.  Coach Cole "discovered" a very talented athlete who joined the team and by season's end had broken the Hope javelin mark, won an MIAA gold medal and recorded one of the best throws in Division III.  Her storybook season had an unusual ending. Leonie could not compete at nationals because she needed to return home before the NCAA championships. One can only imagine what might have happened to further cap an outstanding year.