by Alan Babbitt
The 11th shutout of the season helped the 19th-ranked Hope College women's soccer team extend its title run in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
The Flying Dutch won 2-0 at Alma College on Wednesday to claim an outright MIAA championship and record the second three-peat of league titles in team history.
Hope (13-1-2 overall) finished in first place with a 7-0-1 league record. The Flying Dutch were outright champs in 2017 and co-champions in 2016.
With another outright title in 2014, Hope has won four of the past five MIAA championships. It has been a challenge to stay on top in a competitive league, head coach Leigh Sears said.
"It's easier to get there. It's harder to stay there," Sears said after the Flying Dutch upped their total of MIAA championships to seven. "To stay there, it takes a certain amount of work and discipline. To do it three years in a row is an accomplishment."
The MIAA title is the second of the fall for Hope. Women's soccer joined men's golf as league champions.
Hope will be the No. 1 seed for the MIAA Tournament. The Flying Dutch earned a first-round bye and will host the winner of the Albion-Olivet first-round game on Wednesday, October 31 at Van Andel Soccer Stadium. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Against Alma, senior Hilary Curry of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Grandville Calvin Christian HS), pictured left, and sophomore Audrey White of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville), pictured right, provided the offense Hope needed.
Curry equaled senior Rylie Dalton of Rockford, Michigan (Rockford) for the team lead with her seventh goal of the season. Curry outhustled an Alma defender and beat the keeper for a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute.
White took a cross from junior Abbey Przekop of Novi, Michigan (Mercy) in the 66th minute and scored her second goal of the season.
Hope outshot Alma by a 21-2 margin. Sophomore goalie Jordanne Ellingboe of Grand Haven, Michigan (Grand Haven) only needed to make one save.
The Flying Dutch completed MIAA play with an 18-1 edge in goals.
Through Thursday's scheduled day off, senior Eliza Beird of Holland, Michigan (Black River) and her teammates will savor their latest accomplishment. The Flying Dutch resume practice on Friday.
"At the beginning of the year, we set it as one of our goals," Beird said of a regular-season MIAA title. "It means a lot to everyone on the team to see ourselves realize this goal. It shows what we can do when we set our minds to it. Today is a big win for us."
Added senior Kristen Marsman of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian), "This gives us a boost in our abilities and what we're capable of. This helps us come into the tournament with a positive attitude and excitement about what we can do as a team. For us seniors, it means a lot to see our hard work the past four years is paying off."