The Hope College women's tennis team is eyeing a three-peat of Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles and its 22nd league championship overall as it enters the 2014 season.
The Flying Dutch also are aiming to play in the NCAA Division III national tournament for the fourth time in six seasons and the ninth time in school history.
Coach Adam Ford is in his second season at the helm at Hope, which features a roster of 10 players that includes four returning letterwinners. The team includes two seniors, one junior, three sophomores and four freshmen.
Co-captain this season is senior Stephanie Huffman of Grand Rapids (Forest Hills Eastern HS). Other returning letterwinners for the Flying Dutch are senior Mallory Smith of Grand Haven (Grand Haven HS), junior Carli Capestany of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS) and sophomore Anna Garcia of Battle Creek (Lakeview HS).
The Flying Dutch open the season on Friday, Feb. 14, when they play at Davenport University.
They take their annual spring break trip from March 17 to March 20 and will play four matches in Orlando, Fla.
Hope's first outdoor match is scheduled for Saturday, March 29, vs. visiting Aquinas College.
The Flying Dutch's MIAA title defense begins on Tuesday, April 1, against visiting Kalamazoo College.
Last fall, Hope claimed four flight championships at the MIAA Flighted Tournament it hosted. Freshman Nancy Benda of Birmingham (Seaholm HS) and Smith won the A and B singles draws, respectively. Benda and Capestany placed first in the A doubles flight, while Huffman and freshman Paige Courts of Caledonia (Grand Rapids South Christian HS) topped the B draw.
Last spring, the Flying Dutch qualified for the NCAA tournament by winning the league tournament. Hope also went undefeated in MIAA dual-match play, going 8-0. The Flying Dutch had an overall dual-match record of 15-7 after losing to DePauw (Ind.) in the NCAA opener. Capestany made All-MIAA First Team, while Garcia and senior Casey Baxter of Saline (Saline HS) were second-team selections.
Off the court, Hope earned Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-Academic and MIAA Team GPA Awards. The Flying Dutch had the MIAA's highest team GPA at 3.749. Eight Hope players were named ITA Scholar-Athletes: senior Casey Baxter of Saline (Saline HS), senior Melissa Bieri of Holland (Holland Christian HS), senior Leah LaBarge of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS), junior Kelsey Jeletz of Cedarburg, Wis. (Cedarburg HS), junior Andrea Pickelman of Grand Rapids (Forest Hills Eastern HS), sophomore Meghan Ahlgrim of Libertyville, Ill. (Libertyville HS), Capestany and Garcia.
In addition, this past December, the Hope's Vande Poel-Heeringa Stadium Courts were chosen the Outdoor Tennis Court of the Year by the American Sports Builders Association.