by Alan Babbitt
The 18th-ranked Hope College women's soccer team battled on a soggy and muddy grass field until the final second.
The Flying Dutch's deepest postseason run came to an emotional end with a 2-1 loss at No. 11 Christopher Newport University (Virginia) in the sectional semifinals of the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Goals early in each half propelled the Captains (20-1) into the Saturday, November 17 sectional final against Lynchburg College (Virginia).
Photo of Kristen Marsman by Alan Babbitt
"I think we got what we expected, a really tough, hard-fought match," head coach Leigh Sears said. "We knew they were going to come out and start fast in the second half. They got one at five minutes, and it looks the air out of us a little bit. We fought to the end. We had our opportunities.
"We have 12 seniors. We knew this was the year to do something special. It didn't work out, but it was a good ride for sure."
Hope finished with a 16-3-2 record. The Flying Dutch were Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champions for the third consecutive season and the seventh time overall.
The 16 wins ties for the fourth most in team history.
"I have to hand it to Hope. They gave us a heckuva of a battle," Christopher Newport coach Dan Weiler said. "We knew their energy would be high. We knew they would come ready to play and give us everything they had. Fortunately, we got a couple of goals and dodged some bullets honestly, especially toward the end. We feel fortunate we're going to continue to play."
Christopher Newport's Riley Cook generated the go-ahead goal five minutes into the second half. It was her 16th game-winner of the season, a school record. Cook has scored in 10 consecutive matches and has 24 goals on the season.
The Flying Dutch pressured Christopher Newport like no other opponent this season. They generated 17 shots, the most allowed by the Captains.
Senior forward Hilary Curry of Grand Rapids, Michigan (Calvin Christian HS) tied the score 25 minutes, 19 seconds in the first half with her eighth goal of the season and the 18th of her career.
After a Christopher Newport foul just inside midfield, senior defender Kristen Marsman of Holland, Michigan (Holland Christian) sent the ball into the box. The ball bounced around in a crowd until finally falling at Curry's feet and she blasted it into the net.
"It's all about digging deep, grinding out and getting it in the back of the net," Curry said. "I got a touch on the ball."
Hope answered after Christopher Newport grabbed a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the match on freshman Abby Harrigan's first goal of the season. Off a break, Harrigan ripped a shot into the top corner of the net.
This is the first time this season a Hope opponent has scored more than one goal on the Flying Dutch. Hope yielded only 10 goals in 21 matches this season.
Sophomore goalie Jordanne Ellingboe of Grand Haven, Michigan (Grand Haven) made six saves.
"We work really well together and cover each other really well," senior defender Lindsay Kooy of Metamora, Michigan (Flint Powers Catholic). "I was proud of how all us worked and communicated during that game. It was a little different formation that we're used to playing against, but I thought we adapted well."