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2011-12 Calvin Women’s Basketball Preview

Sunday, October 30, 2011

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2011-12 Calvin Women's Basketball Schedule

(by sports information student assistant Mitch Blankespoor)

The Calvin College women’s basketball team made big jumps forward during the 2010 season.  The high points of Calvin’s season included snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Hope College Flying Dutch, beating the same Dutch team again in the MIAA Tournament final in buzzer beater fashion, and making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007. Calvin will enter the season ranked sixth by and eighth by Women’s DIII News.

“We had a great season last year.” Head women’s basketball coach John Ross said.  “I felt like we competed very well in every game.  Our team found a groove toward the end of the season.”

The 2011-12 Calvin women’s basketball team returns 10 letter-winners from last years’ team that won 25 games. 

“It’s always good to have a core of the team back that have been in the system and understand what Calvin women’s basketball is about.” Ross commented.

The core of the team John Ross speaks of is led by Carissa Verkaik (Holland Christian HS).  The two-time MIAA Most Valuable Player has been tagged by as a first team preseason All-American.  Verkaik is entering her junior season, and is on pace to become the top scorer in Calvin basketball history.  Verkaik led the team averaging 19.8 points per game. “It makes my job easier to have a player like Carissa back.”  Ross reflected.  “I expect Carissa to keep up where she left off last year.”

The other four starters from last years’ team also return.  Junior Ally Wolffis (Mona Shores HS) was a first team All MIAA selection in 2010 who averaged a shade under 10 points a game.  Seniors Logan Marsh (Byron Center HS), Jill Thomas (West Catholic HS), and Courtney Kurncz (St. John’s HS) round up the starting lineup from a year ago.  Thomas hit a three pointer as time expired to beat Hope and win the MIAA Tournament a year ago.

Leah Mattson (Cadillac HS) enters her final season in a Calvin uniform.  She has been named a team captain. “Leah brings so much leadership to this team.” Ross said.

Junior Julia Hilbrands (Grand Rapids Christian HS), who also plays on Calvin’s volleyball team, was second on the team in rebounds a year ago averaging 5.9 boards a game. “She brings a ton of energy off the bench, and is a great complement to Ally and Carissa in the post,” said Ross.

Junior Kelsey Irwin (Fraser HS) led the Knights in triples.  She shot a .371 clip from beyond the arc, and averaged just under one-and-a-half three pointers made per game. “It’s always nice to have someone who can really shoot from the outside.  Kelsey’s ability to hit the long ball with consistency gives our posts more room.” Ross said of the junior.

Kirstin Tripp (Brighton HS) is entering her sophomore season with the Maroon and Gold.  She started in five games last year, and looks to help the Knights out at the point guard position.

“Kirstin has had a really good preseason.  I expect her to push for a starting job.” Ross said.

Calvin adds two other sophomores to its roster this year; Shelby Sheehan (Divine Child HS), who played varsity last year, and Danielle Kapustka, who transferred in from Aquinas. The freshmen class coming in for Calvin is a good one highlighted by Kayla Engelhard (Saginaw Valley Lutheran HS).  She was a first team all state selection in the MHSAA.

“Kayla was one of the best guards in Michigan a year ago.  She will be a great addition to our team and will fight for the starting point guard position.” Ross commented.

Maria DeKuiper (Bradenton Christian HS) comes to Calvin from Florida.  She scored over 2,000 points in high school. “Maria has the ability to score in transition.  She will likely play a post for us.”  Ross said.

Breanna Verkaik (Holland Christian HS) and Jessica Lang (Rochester Adams HS) round out the freshmen class.

Calvin starts out this season holding the #8 ranking in the country.  They will face several tough opponents in the non-conference season including a trip to Anderson College to face the host as well as Cincinnati – Claremont.  The most intriguing non-conference matchup takes place on the 30th of December when Calvin travels to Wisconsin to face UW-LaCrosse.  The brother of Calvin head coach John Ross is an assistant with Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

The Knights then move to the MIAA conference part of their schedule.  Calvin will face its only nationally ranked foe during this stretch, the 13th ranked Hope College Flying Dutch.

“Hope is a great team.  They still have incredible athletes in that program.  I anticipate both games being hotly contested.” Ross said.

There will be high expectations on the Knights this year, but John Ross says that is not what his team focuses on.

“We focus on competing and getting better every day on and off the court.  We strive for excellence.  We want to prove to everyone we are one of the stronger programs in the country.” Ross reflected.

John Ross Preseason Audio Interview

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