by Eva Dean Folkert
To say that the Hope women's soccer team is starting their season off against two tough NCAA Division III opponents is to recognize the truth and the trial in their opening weekend schedule. The defending MIAA champion Flying Dutch aren't shying away from the challenge, though. On Friday, they beat Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, topping the Titans, 2-1.
And senior Eliza Beird of Holland (Black River), pictured, gets a good deal of credit for helping to make it so.
IWU entered the game ranked #23 in the United Soccer Coaches poll. They also advanced to the round of 16 in last year's NCAA Division III tournament. Hope made it to the second round of the 2017 national championship before being eliminated by the University of Chicago. The Flying Dutch are unranked to start the season.
"Both teams had first-game jitters," said head coach Leigh Sears of Friday's match. "But I felt we controlled the game for quite a while."
Hope got its first goal of the game and the season when Beird delivered an assist off a restart to senior midfielder Hilary Curry of Grand Rapids (Grandville Calvin Christian) whose shot found the back of the net at 27:40.
The first half ended, 1-0.
IWU tied the game after only five minutes elapsed in the second half. Titan junior Jordan Ellerbrook knocked in a goal off a crossing pass from senior Rosie Pettenuzzo.
Twenty-five minutes later, Hope's winning goal came at the 75:20 mark. Beird again was on the assisting end, feeding a corner kick to senior midfielder Rylie Dalton of Rockford (Rockford) "who just buried it," Sears enthused. "And Eliza works hard. She played all 90 minutes. She just works so hard."
"It was a tough game," the head coach continued. "We had a shaky start to both halves, but we took momentum when we needed to. We also got to play a lot of players. I thought Audrey White (of Hudsonville) and Maria Egloff (of Kalamazoo Loy Norrix) each had a great game too. Our depth should help us a lot this year."
That's a good thing. On Saturday, the Flying Dutch will play another formidable opponent, Ohio Northern University — ranked eighth in the preseason poll, defending champions of the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) and advancers to the elite eight in last year's NCAA tournament. Hope takes on ONU at 2:00 p.m. Central time in Bloomington, Illinois.