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Storied Career Ends for Calvin’s Top Scorer

Sunday, June 02, 2013

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By Mark DeHaan ‘15

The past four years of Calvin women’s basketball have been among the most successful in the history of the program. With a senior class that posted a 100-16 overall record, four trips to the NCAA Tournament and three MIAA championships, the past four years have been something special for the Knights on the hardwood.

And while all of this has been done with a very special six-member senior class, senior Carissa Verkaik stands out. The all-time Calvin career leader in points, with 2,236; rebounds, with 1,071; and blocked shots, with 440, Verkaik was named the MIAA MVP all four years of her career, becoming the first player in MIAA women’s basketball history to be so honored four consecutive years. Verkaik is also the MIAA career leader in points in conference games, posting 1,219 points in 64 career MIAA contests.

Despite the overwhelming amount of individual success, Verkaik has done anything but take personal pride in her accomplishments. “Being named four-time MVP for the MIAA is a huge honor, but I could have never accomplished it without any of my teammates from freshman year until now,” said Verkaik. “All of those ladies contributed in huge ways.”

Verkaik has also been honored as an Academic All-American twice in her career, translating her hard work from the basketball court to the classroom. An elementary education major with a 3.76 G.P.A., she was named third team Academic All-American her junior year and first team as well as Academic All-American of the Year in Division III her senior year.

“I feel honored and humbled to be chosen for the Capital One Academic All American Team,” said Verkaik. “This award recognizes me more as a complete student–athlete and not just for what I have accomplished on the court and in athletics.”

Out of Holland Christian (Mich.) High School, Verkaik chose Calvin because of its focus on academics,while also providing a strong Christian community.

“When I was looking for what college I wanted to go to I knew I wanted a Christian school that was local and was going to challenge me to grow both spiritually and academically,” said Verkaik. “Calvin, I thought, had all of those and I loved the community that was represented while I was visiting.”

Verkaik has two younger sisters, sophomore Breanna and freshman Kally, who like their older sister, decided to attend Calvin after high school. All members of the varsity basketball team, this past season marked the first time all three played on the same squad at once.

“To be able to play with both of my sisters and two of my closest friends this past year has been an unforgettable experience and a dream come true,” said Verkaik. “Since Kally’s eighth-grade year we have all dreamed of having this opportunity and for it actually come true has been such a blessing. I think we are all happy that it happened but sad that it is already over. On the court I think we were able to see each other a little better just because we knew each other’s tendencies, and those few moments where we were all in at the same time are memories that are going to be remembered forever.”

And while Verkaik’s career came to an unexpected end, losing to the University of St. Thomas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, 64-62, Verkaik does not let athletics dictate her attitude of her four years at Calvin.

“My four years have been full of experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. If I had to choose again where I would go to school I would go to Calvin in a heartbeat,” said Verkaik. “On the court I have been blessed with wonderful teammates and coaches who are very supportive. Off the court I have found even more lifelong friends and a community that has helped me grow in and out of the classroom. My professors have been so supporting and caring not just in the classroom but also what I do outside of it as well. Calvin has truly made a huge positive impact on my life.”

Calvin women’s basketball head coach John Ross says he is grateful to have had the opportunity to coach Verkaik and highlighted the impact that she has had on the program.

“Carissa has an incredible work ethic and drive that I have never seen before. She came to practice every day to become a better player, and she did exactly that. She is extremely humble and always has an upbeat positive attitude about everything,” said Ross. “Carissa realizes that all the gifts that she has are gifts from God. She is a very caring and a very outgoing person that will be missed greatly by our program. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of Carissa’s life for the last four years.”

Verkaik will go out as the most accomplished women’s basketball player to graduate from Calvin. And, although it has had its highs and its unexpected lows, Verkaik will fondly remember every minute of the journey.

“Basketball has had a huge impact on my time here at Calvin and all the girls on the team have made it a really special experience,” said Verkaik. “I’ve loved every moment of it.”

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