Last March, the Hope College females’s basketball team stepped off the court for the final time, they didn’t lose a game all season, but they didn’t cut the webs down either.

The COVID-19 pandemic killed any possibility the Flying Dutch had at claiming the 2020 championship game. That discomfort resounded throughout the program and the whole school. In all seasons there’s a natural life cycle, so to speak, but the death of this one came too soon.

Hope coach Brian Morehouse stated that although the group won’t be able to hang a banner with the words “National Champions” in DeVos Fieldhouse, they have nothing to hang their heads about.

” We essentially needed to go through a pretty public grieving procedure to the end of a truly special life of a season,” Morehouse stated. “The feel-good part that you can take away from it as we did whatever that was asked of us, we won each and every single game and we got much better as the season went along.”

And now, that’s all in the rear view mirror. Morehouse’s team returns all but 2 gamers from the leading ranked 29-0 team from last year. The group is led by 9 elders, 3 all-conference gamers and two All-Americans from a year ago.

With all that firepower returning and the season slated to begin January 23, the Flying Dutch have no objective of letting up on the gas. Senior guard Lauren Newman stated that throughout her time at Hope, this team is the most capable she’s belonged of.

” This is most likely among the most disciplined teams I’ve been a part of, while at Hope,” Newman stated. “The group talks every day, we have Zoom calls, we send out exercises to each other so … people have actually done as much as they perhaps can, where they’re at house.”

This year’s group, like numerous Hope groups in the past, will rely heavily on their defensive expertise. It’s been among Morehouse’s calling cards considering that he took over the program in 1996. Last season, the Dutch only allowed 7 teams to eclipse the 50 point mark, while Hope averaged more than 70 points per game.

The COVID-19 pandemic has actually made it difficult on all teams throughout the country, however since of the brand of basketball Hope plays and the experience it has returning, Morehouse said he has a lots of faith in his roster.

” We’ve got veteran group, we have truly skilled players,” Morehouse stated. “We are the number one group in the country defensively, that takes effort, that takes concentration.”

That effort and concentration can be personified through another senior guard, Sydney Muller. Last January she tore her ACL in a game against Olivet. This preseason, Morehouse said at the time of her injury, she was playing as great as any person on the lineup had all season.

When the season begins, she’s predicted to be dressed with the team. She said that even through the trials and tribulations of rehabbing throughout a pandemic, it made her that far more hyped to get back on the flooring.

” I won’t lie. It’s most likely the hardest thing I’ve ever performed in my life,” Muller stated. “It actually reignited my passion for basketball, and for just remaining in the fitness center and doing all those hard workouts once again.”

With Muller and other essential gamers back and healthy this season, Hope is projected to begin the year highly ranked, if not at the top of the standings. With no defending nationwide champ for anybody to circle on their schedule, the Dutch likely have a target on their backs in the Division III world.

But for a program that’s had the success of Hope over the last 2 decades, that’s absolutely nothing brand-new.

” I do not say this arrogantly, but every year we have a target on our back,” Morehouse said. “we understand everyone has got us directly in their sights, and you either range from that or you accept it and running from it is ultimately going to get you caught.”

With that mindset installed in each player as quickly as they set foot on campus, it’s not surprising that why the program constantly ends up near the top of the MIAA while contending for a nationwide title.

Since of factors out of their control, they couldn’t declare the throne last season. However while some teams would still have that hanging over them, Hope isn’t focused on the past.

” To me, this isn’t about avenging a challenging ending to a season in 2015. This has to do with a new team, new opportunities,” Morehouse said. “We’re delighted about the birth of a new season.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Will Kennedy at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ByWillKennedy and Facebook @Holland Guard Sports.