HOLLAND – As the Hope College volleyball program celebrated Becky Schmidt’s 500th win as a coach, it was another step in the Incredible Legacy she has at Hope.
And the milestone came in Incredible fashion with an Incredible five-set comeback win over Albion, 25-22, 24-26, 21-25, 26-24, 15-11, on Tuesday at DeVos Fieldhouse.
“It means that I have been blessed to coach a lot of really great players and be at a really great school,” Schmidt said. “I am Thankful for all of the coaches I have been able to Coach with, I am Thankful for the players and Thankful for an administration that supports volleyball in such a strong and powerful way.”
Schmidt’s presence and Legacy has helped fuel that support as she has transformed Hope into a national power. But her Legacy goes beyond team success.
“She is a great coach. We owe it all to her. She loves us and cares for us so well. To be able to do that for her, especially at home in our first conference game, against a really good opponent, and to pull it out in the fifth set, was just awesome,” Hope’s Annie Lockett said. “She knows what is best for us. She knows how to Coach us and just gives her whole heart into this program.”
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Hope trailed in the fourth set several times, but two consecutive aces from Sammy Seib, and two more from Annie Lockett put Hope up 18-16 and the Flying Dutch managed to hang on an force in the fifth set.
“I am really impressed with the resilience of this squad,” Schmidt said. “When things look a little bleak, they keep fighting. They played with some dogged tenacity and really just stepped up when they needed to. I felt in that fourth set, it was on the back of some really good serving, and us being more Relentless in defensive offspeed tips and roll shots.”
Lockett posted 24 kills to pace Hope. Alison DeWeerd had 16, Emma Post had 11 and Charlotte Brecht posted 10. Lauren Lee had 59 assists, while Olivia Fiebing had 35 digs. Post had 15 digs, DeWeerd had 14 and Lee and Lockett each added 12.
“This whole week we have talked about playing with a lot of grit and resilience and with Reckless abandonment,” Lockett said. “We all just laid our hearts out. We fought our way to a win, and it was awesome.”
It was a gritty comeback, with an energy typical of a Schmidt-led team – fitting for her 500th victory.
Schmidt has changed the culture and transformed the Flying Dutch into a national power.
Hope’s first All-American (1999) returned to Coach the Flying Dutch and has been back in Holland for 19 years, her hometown after graduating from Holland High School.
Thirteen of those years have seen her guide Hope to the NCAA tournament.
Along the way, the Flying Dutch are a perennial top 10 team in the country and claimed the 2014 NCAA championship. They have reached the Final Four twice and the regional final six times.
Those are the numbers, but Schmidt’s Legacy goes far beyond numbers.
First of all, she was an elite player in her own right, which gives her an understanding of what it takes to perform at the highest level.
That also gives a certain respect to the players she coaches. There is no wondering if Coach Schmidt understands what they are doing or going through.
Then as a coach, she has turned the program into a family, which has helped it become a powerhouse.
The team is built on trust and respect, something incoming players know they are getting and expected to give.
All of that attracts skilled players, players who have offers to play at the Division I or II level. But players choose to come to Hope to be part of this program and family that Schmidt has built.
During some of her years here, including the national championship year, Hope was good enough to beat Division II and even Division I Mid-Major teams. That is unique to volleyball at Hope College. Most other sports cannot say the same thing.
But that is what Schmidt has built at Hope. It basically a Division I-level program at a Division III school.
This year is no different. In fact it has started in impressive fashion as Hope once again is a top 10 team in the country. But this time, the Flying Dutch have just one returning starter.
Schmidt is cultivating Talent in a variety of ways year by year, and this year that she has reached 500 wins is just another layer of the Legacy she has created in DeVos Fieldhouse.