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Fall sports season historic For Calvin College

This fall sports season, which ended November 17th, was a memorable one for Calvin. The Knights captured six of seven possible Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Championships outright in varsity sports, marking the first time any school accomplished this feat in the conference’s
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Joust Photo

 This is a photo of Calvin's mascot, Joust. 

/Calvin College Sports Information

This fall sports season, which ended November 17th, was a memorable one for Calvin College.  The Knights captured outright six of seven possible Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Championships in varsity sports, marking the first time any school has accomplished this feat in the conference’s 125-year history. 

Men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s golf and women’s volleyball all won conference championships.  The women’s golf team qualified for the MIAA’s NCAA Spring Qualifying Tournament, but finished fourth in the conference. 

The men’s cross-country team captured its 26th straight MIAA title, winning the final MIAA Jamboree with 20 points.  Senior Dan Kerr (Petoskey/Petoskey HS) earned the MIAA Most Valuable Runner Award for the second consecutive season.  Joining Kerr in earning All-MIAA honors were eight other Knights.  Kerr, Job Christiansen (New Ipswich, N.H./Mascenic Regional), David VandeBunte (Byron Center/Byron Center HS) and Rhett Morici (St. Charles, Ill./St. Charles North) were named to the All-MIAA first team.  Sophomores Steven Haagsma (Grandville/Calvin Christian) and Josh Ferguson (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley), juniors Sam Kirk (Hartland, Wis./Lake Country Lutheran) and Philip Spitzer (Buckley/Buckley HS) and senior Kevin Peterson (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian) were named to the All-MIAA second team. 

On Nov. 10, the men’s cross-country team captured its 17th straight Great Lakes Regional Championship with 36 total points.  With its win, Calvin earned a trip to the  NCAA Division III national championships in Terre Haute, Ind. on Nov. 17. 

After the regional championship, Calvin men's and women's cross-country head coach Brian Diemer said the team was excited for the final race of the season. 

“We had a very encouraging men’s race,” said Diemer shortly after capturing the regional title. “The challenge now is to keep those guys going for one more week and I’m confident we can do that. Our team is very excited and looking forward to the challenge of racing for a championship next week.”

The next week, the men’s cross-country team fell 21 points short of a national title.  In first place with two kilometers to go, the Knights could not hold on, and they fell to North Central College (Ill.).  Calvin finished with 188 points as a team.  Christiansen and Kramer earned All-American honors.

The women’s cross-country team also captured the MIAA title, defeating defending champion Hope in the final MIAA Jamboree by 11 points.  The championship is the program’s 23rd in 25 years.  Junior Nicole Michmerhuizen (Holland/Holland Christian) was named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Runner.  Joining Michmerhuizen in being named All-MIAA were six other Knights.  Alyssa Penning (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian), Kimby Penning (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian), freshman Mackenzie Diemer (Caledonia/South Christian) and junior Alyssa Oram (Sheboygan, Wis./Home schooled) earned spots on the All-MIAA first team.  Katie Ardinger (Elmhurst, Ill./Timothy Christian) and Christine Hartley (Pewaukee, Wis./Lake County Lutheran) were named to the All-MIAA second team. 

The women’s cross-country team placed third at the Great Lakes Regional meet with 105 points, finished behind Oberlin (95 pts) and champion Hope (91 pts).  The Knights received an at-large bid to the national meet.  After regionals, Diemer said the women's team had much work to prepare for the national meet.

“The key for our runners is to stay in contact with a teammate and we got broken up a bit with that strategy,” said Diemer shortly after the regional meet.  “We will use the lessons learned today next Saturday.”

At the national meet in Terre Haute, the women’s cross-country team finished in 18th place with 413 points.  Calvin did not have an All-American finish, awarded to the top 35 runners.  Ardinger ran a time of 22:46.6 and finished in 100th place.

Coming off of an appearance in the NCAA National Championship game a season ago, the Calvin men’s soccer team began the season under first-year head coach Ryan Souders.  The Knights captured the MIAA regular season and tournament championships with a record of 16-3-1 (12-1-1 MIAA) after beginning the season 2-3.  Calvin advanced to the NCAA III Men’s Soccer Tournament for the sixth straight year.  Calvin fell to DePauw 3-0 in the first round.

The senior class, consisting of Nick Holtop (Hudsonville/Unity Christian), Joe Broekhuizen (Grand Rapids/South Christian), Dan Nederhood (Kentwood/East Kentwood HS), Jared Rushlau (Grandville/Grandville HS), Trevor Bushhouse (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton North) and Chris Nance (Washington/De La Salle) graduate as the most successful class in Calvin history.  Besides this season’s accomplishments, they have made two appearances in the NCAA Division III national finals as well as a quarterfinal appearance. 

According to head coach Ryan Souders, the senior class has left a lasting impact on the men’s soccer program.

“Losing and ending a season never becomes normal,” Souders said. “If our senior class is judged on today, things are kind of lost in translation. This is a group of guys that elevated what was a very good program to a program that expects to win the conference, expects to be in the national tournament, and expects to play many games in the national tournament. That is quite a legacy to leave; to take a program that was and is very good, to the next level, is a huge accomplishment to them and an incredible job on their part.”

Holtrop, Broekhuizen and Nederhood were named All-MIAA.  In addition, Holtrop earned the MIAA Most Valuable Player award. 

In the MIAA preseason coaches’ poll, the Calvin women’s soccer team was picked to finish fifth.  The Knights proved everyone wrong, winning the conference on the final day of the regular season with a 2-1 overtime win over Adrian.  A week later, Calvin defeated Hope in overtime in the MIAA Tournament finals, earning a trip to the NCAA Division III Women’s Soccer Tournament.  Calvin headed to Dubuque, Iowa, to play Aurora University.  Calvin shocked the 19-1-1 Spartans, winning again in overtime 1-0.  Calvin’s season came to an end a day later, however, as the Knights fell to host Loras College 4-2, ending the season with a record of 16-5-1. 

According to head coach Mark Recker, Calvin fans have a lot to look forward to in coming years.

“All in all, we had a great season,” Recker said.  “We had a very young team and proved a lot of people wrong.  I’m excited to see what this group can do going forward.”

Four Knights earned All-MIAA honors.  Senior Francesca Smith (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South), junior Danielle Carter (DeWitt/DeWitt HS) and freshman Taylor Ten Harmsel (Holland/Holland Christian) earned spots on the All-MIAA first team.  Freshman Sydney Kinney (Ada/Grand Rapids Christian) was the lone Knight on the All-MIAA second team. 

The men’s golf team captured its second MIAA title ever, its second in three seasons.  The Knights finished ten strokes ahead of rival Hope.  Seniors Ben Kuiper (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian) and Dave Sarkipato (Kalamazoo/Kalamazoo Christian) earned All-MIAA honors.  Calvin will take part in the MIAA’s NCAA Spring Qualifying Tournament and will host two of the three rounds at Watermark Country Club.  The course is located approximately five minutes from Calvin’s campus. 

According to Calvin head men’s golf coach Brian Bolt, the final round conditions at Albion were difficult.

“We are thrilled to finish as (regular season) league champion,” said Bolt after the Knights clinched the league title. “Playing out in front as the league leader creates pressure, but our guys fought through and turned in the scores to get the job done. The conditions today were not easy. The wind was very brisk and the pin placements were difficult.”

The women’s volleyball team finished the regular season with a record of 28-2.  Calvin swept the MIAA regular season, dropping only two sets in the process.  The Knights earned the MIAA Tournament title with a thrilling five-set victory over Hope.  Nov. 8-10, Calvin hosted and won the Great Lakes region in the NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament, defeating defending national champion Wittenberg in the finals.  The Knights moved on to the national quarterfinals hosted by Hope College.

After the regional championship, head coach Amber Warners said her team needed to remain focused throughout the week preceding nationals.

“Winning the MIAA and regional titles are great accomplishments,” Warners said.  “But we have a lot to work on to get ready for nationals.  We are going to try and get better each day, and take one match at a time.”

At Hope, Calvin advanced all the way to the national title game.  The Knights were up 2-0 on the Tommies of the University of St. Thomas (Minn.).  But Calvin could not win the clinching set and fell in five sets.

Senior outside hitter Lizzie Kamp (Orland Park, Ill./Chicago Christian) was named AVCA Division III National Player of the Year.  A season ago, her older sister, Becca, won the award.  Kamp was also named to the All-American first team.  Junior setter Megan Rietema (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian) joined Kamp on the All-American first team. 

Jim Timmer Jr. has been director of men’s athletics at Calvin, his alma mater, since 2006.  He has never seen any school, let alone Calvin, have this much success in a single season.

“I have been around a long time and have never seen a school go six for seven in conference championships in a league as tough as the MIAA,” Timmer said.  “It is a testament to the hard work of our coaches and student-athletes.”

The fall sports season is done, but the 2012 season will have a lasting impact on sports season to come.

“Success breeds success,” said Timmer.   “The more success you have, the greater the chance is for you to sustain that success.”

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