A blend of veterans and newcomers should put the Flying Dutch in a position to be very competitive in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) in 2011-12.
Coach John Patnott begins his 32nd season at the helm of a nationally respected program he began in 1978. Over his tenure as coach of the men's and women's program, he has counted 116 All-Americans and had national champions 30 times. The Flying Dutch have been MIAA champions a league-record 21 times.
In recent years, however, the Flying Dutch have been challenged for the top spot by rival Calvin which has a string of seven league crowns. Hope has been league runnerup each of those years.
The 2011-12 pre-season roster includes 12 returning letterwinners. There are eight freshmen, four sophomores, six juniors and four seniors.
Co-captains of the team will be senior Sarah Sohn (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect HS); junior Libby Westrate (Grandville/Grandville HS); and senior Chelsea Wiese (Rochester/Rochester Adams HS).
Sarah Sohn and Libby Westrate each won three events at last year's MIAA championships. Sohn is the three-time defending MIAA champion in the 1,650 freestyle and the two-time defending champion in the 500 freestyle and 400 individual medley. She holds the MIAA record in the 1,650 and the Hope record in the 400 IM. Westrate is the two-time defending champion in the 100 and 200 freestyle and the defending champion in the 50 freestyle. She set the Hope record in the 50 free. Westrate qualified for the NCAA Division III national championships in her three freestyle events. Sohn, Westrate and Wiese were members of Hope's league champion 800 freestyle relay.
The regular season will begin and end with Hope hosting an MIAA event at the Holland Aquatic Center. The MIAA Relays will be held Saturday, Oct. 22 and four months later (Feb. 16-18) the MIAA championships will come to Holland.