The Hope College volleyball team returns to the court in the 2014 season as one of the top teams in the nation.
Coach Becky Schmidt and Hope are ranked fourth in the preseason American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll. The Flying Dutch also were picked first in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association preseason coaches poll after sharing the 2013 regular-season title with Calvin College.
Hopes roster of 20 players features five seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and five freshmen.
The Flying Dutch open the 2014 season on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29-30, at the Wittenberg (Ohio) University Courtyard By Marriott National Invitational. Hope will play three matches, including two against nationally ranked opponents.
Hopes home opener is Tuesday, Sept. 2, against MIAA rival Adrian College. The Flying Dutch will play five matches on the DeVos Fieldhouse main court this season, including the home opener.
Three captains will lead the Flying Dutch: senior outside hitter Jenna Grasmeyer of Jenison, Michigan (Hudsonville Unity Christian HS), senior middle hitter Jillian Sommerville of Plymouth, Michigan (Salem HS) and junior setter Lauren Hazekamp of Fruitport, Michigan (Fruitport HS).
Grasmeyer is a two-time AVCA All-American and three-time All-MIAA First Team player. She averaged a Hope-best 4.01 kills per set last season and ranked 25 th in the nation in that category. She also was 17 th nationally in points per set at 4.77.
Hazekamp was a second-team All-American as a sophomore in 2013, during her first season as a starter. She placed 10 th in the nation at 10.8 assists per set.
Junior libero Jayne Kessel of Byron Center, Michigan (Grand Rapids South Christian HS) also returns for the Flying Dutch. She was named Hopes most improved player by her teammates.
Schmidt is entering her 10 th season as head coach at Hope, her alma mater. The Flying Dutch have won 268 matches during her tenure with a win percentage of .795.
Hope is coming off a season in which the Flying Dutch posted a 32-3 record, reached the national quarterfinals of the 2013 NCAA Division III Championships held at Hope College and captured a share of their 12 th MIAA championship.
The Flying Dutch tied for second in Division III with 13.09 assists per set, fourth in kills per set at 13.96 and fourth in hitting percentage at .269.
Hope was the only team in the nation to defeat national champion Calvin College last season.
Off the court, Hope claimed its sixth consecutive American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award with a 3.429 Team GPA. The Flying Dutch also repeated as an MIAA Team GPA award winner.
In 2013, Kessel earned the NCAA Elite 89 award for having the highest GPA among participants at an NCAA championship event.