It truly was a successful year for Hope College Athletics, shown by the outstanding performances from individual student athletes and teams. Through not only their athletic performance, but their academic endeavors, courage and devotion to teammates, Hope athletes stand out as strong characters.
The HOPEYs have a nostalgic atmosphere to them, bittersweet to those looking back on the seasons that have ended or are even graduating. It is humbling for the athletes that do attend to see the amazing work that athletes in every sport put in and then apply to competition.
This is the only event where Hope athletes from all of the varsity teams come together to celebrate each others’ seasons. It helps to give a new perspective to all involved and to inspire one another to do their best not just in sport, but in all aspects of life.
There were several nominees for each award, each deserving of their recognition. However, only one per category could be granted a HOPEY award.
First looking at performances by individual athletes, awards were given for Exceptional Performance in a Team Sport and Exceptional Performance in an Individual Sport.
For the award of Exceptional Performance in a Team Sport, Jason Beckman (‘19) was recognized from men’s basketball for his efforts in this year’s home game against Alma College. During the game, Beckman attained the second most scored points at DeVos Fieldhouse with 41 points!
For the award of Exceptional Performance in an Individual Sport, Erin Herrmann (‘17) of women’s track and field was acknowledged for her race at NCAA Division III Nationals. Herrmann was a national champion and became the school record-holder for the 3000-meter steeplechase.
The next award focuses on an athlete who is either a freshman, transfer or new varsity member that stands out on the team for their first year. Male Newcomer of the Year award was given to Mason Opple (‘20) of the football team. Opple served as a starter as a sophomore and was ranked fourth in the MIAA for the 2017 season.
The Female Newcomer of the Year was Kenedy Schoonveld (‘21) of women’s basketball. Schoonveld was named Great Lakes Region Newcomer of the Year, was a starter as a freshman for the Flying Dutch and was named All-MIAA First Team for the 2017/2018 season.
The Male Breakthrough Athlete HOPEY was awarded to Riley Lewis (‘20) of men’s basketball for his breakthrough mid-season in a home game against Olivet University. During the regular-season game, Lewis scored 23 points. He also contributed considerably during the MIAA Tournament Championship game. He was the 5th leading scorer for the team this year.
The Female Breakthrough Athlete of the year was awarded to Grace Bubin (‘19) of women’s soccer. Bubin started in a majority of the games this year, scored 11 goals for the season (6 game-winning goals) and was named All-MIAA first team and All-Region from the United Soccer Coaches. The Comeback Player of the Year award recognized Isaac Braak (‘19) of men’s soccer for overcoming his injury. Braak came back from tearing his Achilles tendon during tryouts before his sophomore season; as a junior, he was able to play midfield and be named to the All-MIAA First Team.
The Role Player of the Year award was presented to Tucker Gibbons (‘19) of track & field. Gibbons competes in jumps and sprints for the team. His teammates say that he fills in for injured athletes, is reliable and always performs with his full effort. He is also a co-captain for the track team. The Female Athlete of the Year is Sydney Jones (‘18) of softball. Jones set single-season school records (17 wins, 11 shutouts, 22 complete games and 229 strikeouts in 153 innings pitched), was named All-MIAA First Team and All- Region First Team honors, and was recognized as Fastpitch News Division III First Team All-American.
Male Athlete of the Year is Josh Gibson of men’s golf. Gibson was the NCAA Division III National Champion, holder of the Hope College scoring record (61 stroke round), and MIAA Most Valuable Player two years in a row.
The Exceptional Team Performance was awarded to softball for their final games of the MIAA regular season. In these games, they swept Alma, allowing them a shared championship and the first MIAA softball title in 11 years.
The MIAA Performance award was given to women’s basketball for their game against Trine University during the conference tournament. This close game earned them their spot in the NCAA tournament.
For the Outstanding Team award, women’s basketball was also recognized for their outstanding performances this season, ending at a 29-2 record.
The Female Be Strong. Be True. Athlete of the Year is Hayley Reitsma (‘18) of softball for her academic and athletic achievements, along with her impact through her involvement at Hope College. The Male Be Strong. Be True. Athlete of the Year is Brandon Ellsworth (‘18) of football for his outstanding achievements in the classroom, on the field and around Hope’s campus.
The most touching award given was probably the Karen Page Courage Award. Haley Fischmen (‘18) of track & field was recognized for her fight against cancer. This award is presented in remembrance of former Hope women’s tennis coach, Karen Page, who fought breast cancer for five brave years. Haley reflected on her experience:
Video and Poetice Donation – “I had not seen the video before the Hopeys and was completely blown away and blessed by my coaches, parents and friends. I am so blessed to be able to share my story and share how God is working in my life, even during this difficult time. I had no idea about the Poetice video and starting bawling when I saw it. God moves in mysterious ways. I wanted to go to Zambia to serve others and to learn, and when I found out I couldn’t go anymore, I still wanted to serve in the best way that I could.”
God working – “I met with Vern Sterk after the Hopeys and he was just incredible. Truly he is a man of God’s will, and it was a huge honor to meet him and talk with him. We both have a shared interest in mission and service, as well as a shared experience in physical challenges. He is an incredible person and our earth would greatly benefit from more people like him.”
Athletics – “Like I have said before, it’s a huge blessing to share my story. I wanted to tell people about what was going on in my life because I knew that I needed support, and this is something really difficult to go through alone. I am just in awe of everyone, I have had so many people reach out to me, and it is just incredible. I feel so undeserving at times because I am just a normal person, but I think God is working through others. I cannot thank everyone enough for their love and support. Track has played a huge part of my life, and in all honesty it really does suck that my senior season had to end this way. But my teammates and coaches are just amazing. Hope Athletics has done so much for me and allowed me to grow as a person in different ways.”
Sharing her story – “Looking forward at treatment, I still have a while to go. August 28 is my tentative last day of treatment, and it’s a bit daunting to think about. I have a PET scan coming up soon, and hopefully we will see some progress. I really don’t want anyone to treat me any differently, because I am still the same person, I just have some rough days. I am really looking forward to spending time with my family this summer and relaxing before the next part of my life. The rest and relaxation will be good for me.”
Her impact on others – “I hope people can hear my story and know that God is at work in my life and theirs. I don’t think it’s a sad story. I hope that people will learn to appreciate all that they have at the current moment and recognize each day as a gift.”