Two Trios of Sisters Are Part of Proud Tradition In Calvin Women’s Basketball Program
Monday, February 04, 2013
By Gina de Haan
(during the month of January, de Haan was a student intern in the Calvin sports information office through an intern exchange program with Grand Rapids Christian High School)
Two trios of sisters have contributed to the tradition of Calvin’s women’s basketball – the Post sisters and the Verkaik sisters.
Growing up on the family farm, Julie (Post) Febus, Annette (Post) Ediger and Cheryl (Post) Morales played countless hours of driveway basketball with each other and, while doing so, they fell in love with the sport. Annette, the middle sister of the three, recalls when she and her sisters would bundle up and head outside on frigid winter days to shoot hoops, the chilled, rock-hard ball bouncing on their frozen dirt driveway. The Post sisters give credit to the eldest sister, Julie, for sparking the family’s interest in the game. Julie, the MIAA’s Most Valuable Player in the 1987-1988 season, began playing basketball when she was in fourth grade and her younger sisters happily followed in her footsteps; the Posts welcomed basketball as a new member of their family.
All three sisters were graduates of Hudsonville Unity Christian High School, Julie in 1984, Annette following two years later and Cheryl two years after Annette. However, they were never teammates during their high school careers due to the spacing of their ages, which caused them to compete on different levels in Unity Christian’s program.
When it came time to choose the college where she would continue her education for the next four years, Julie was torn between two colleges who happen to have the biggest rivalry in Division III college hoops. The Calvin College, Hope College women’s basketball rivalry began in 1965 and has been alive for forty-eight years; the two teams have gone head-to-head in 105 contests, Calvin leading the series sixty-six to thirty-nine. A last second decision would land the power forward at Calvin, and away from her best friend who would go on to play at Hope. In the end, Julie chose Calvin because she saw it being a better fit for her educationally with its commendable Christian learning environment.
In the next few years, Annette and Cheryl, seeking a Christian college with a strong education program, followed their older sister once again, this time to college. Cheryl, being the youngest sister, says her sisters set the groundwork in terms of basketball, but also made the college choice of Calvin a “natural decision” because she wanted to carry on this family tradition.
During their time at Calvin, Julie, Annette and Cheryl all pursued teaching degrees and were also notable members of the women’s basketball program.
Although all three Post sisters were never on the same Calvin basketball team together, they all were involved with each of their sisters in the program.
Julie was a four-year member of the program, contributing from 1984 to 1988 as a dynamic all-around player; she was one of the few players to eclipse the one-thousand point barrier, scoring a total 1,007 points in four seasons. The last two years of her playing career at Calvin, the 1986-1987 and 1987-1988 seasons, Julie was given the opportunity to play on the women’s varsity with Annette. Annette also competed on the track and field team as a thrower the four years she attended Calvin, but on the court she was a strong wing forward who collected a lot of assists as a key substitute player. In fact, Annette often came off the bench as Julie’s sub; looking back, the two sisters see that as a rare and special experience that was fun to share with one another.
Perhaps the best experience the two eldest Post sisters shared was the magical 1987-1988 season. Julie and Annette were members of the first Calvin women’s basketball team to not only win twenty games in a season, but also to go to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Their underdog team shocked Division III basketball by finishing their season with a record of 21-5, 12-0 in the MIAA. Calvin women’s basketball hadn’t been a very noteworthy program up until this season; Annette credits to the team’s success to special team chemistry, lots of laughter, and hard work.
Sometimes, being the middle child of the family does have some pros; for Annette it was having the opportunity to be a teammate to both her older and younger sister. She had the opportunity to share the NCAA Tournament experience with Julie, and again, two years later in the 1989-1990 season, with Cheryl. Having watched her sisters play basketball for countless hours over the years, Annette notes that she knew her sisters’ style of play quite well; part of the reason they played well together was because they could often anticipate what their sister was going to do, where she wanted the ball or where she was going to pass.
Cheryl, a power forward, played four years of basketball for Calvin. As a freshman, during the 1988-1989 season, she was a member of the JV team, playing for her older sister Julie. Julie was doing her student-teaching as a fifth year student and during this time she helped coach at the JV level. Cheryl recalls that this was a unique, but good experience overall; “Although it was not always easy knowing someone so well and then obeying them as well as you should, I respected Julie and what she knew about the game…ninety-nine percent of the time, it worked out perfectly.”
For the three remaining years she spent at Calvin, Cheryl was a member of the varsity hoops team on top of being a four-year track and field athlete; like her sister Annette, she was primarily a thrower, competing in the shot put and discus. Cheryl was very grateful for the family support she received from her sisters. They were able to share the ups and the downs of the game, encourage each other but also give constructive criticism; the sisters understood and could relate to one another even more so because not only were they family, they were teammates.
Now, more than 20 years later, another trio of sisters is now making an impact within the Calvin women’s basketball program.
Carissa, Breanna and Kally Verkaik are the first trio of sisters to have played varsity basketball for Calvin at the same time; they are all members of the varsity women’s team. Not only is this a first for Calvin basketball, it’s also a first for the Verkaik family. This season is the first time all three sisters are playing on the same team together.
All three sisters attended Holland Christian High School, but, like the Post sisters, they ended up competing on different levels of the program during their high school career. Growing up, the Verkaik sisters were best friends; they spent lots of time practicing and playing basketball with and against each other, which foreshadowed their future careers at Calvin.
After graduating from Holland Christian, Carissa was looking for a college with a strong Christian community where she could grow spiritually and academically; Calvin was a perfect fit for her. Two years later, Breanna found it was easy to follow her sister to college. During Kally’s senior year in high school, she found herself missing her sisters, so the decision to carry on the family tradition and apply for Calvin was an easy one.
This season’s Knights are ranked No. 2 in the nation; the Verkaik sisters will tell you that this team is successful because of great team chemistry, the consistent hard work put in daily by every player, and lastly, talent, which they certainly have a lot of.
All-American Carissa Verkaik recently became the all-time career leading scorer in the MIAA after an impressive 37-point performance against Adrian College on January 16th, which pushed her past the 1,051 point record that was held by Allison Kessler of Saint Mary’s. Later that week, in a non-conference game against Rochester, the eldest Verkaik scored her 2,000th career point.
Carissa says it’s a blessing to be a part of the same team with her sisters, and they feel very special that God has given them this rare opportunity. The three not only get along as teammates, but also seem to have a special connection when they’re out on the court together. All the time spent practicing with one another while growing up has made them experts on their sisters’ playing styles. Often, a Verkaik will assist one of her sisters; Breanna recognizes those special plays, “It feels really good, giving or getting an assist to or from one of my sisters. The assist is even more special because my sister is a part of it.”
The Verkaik sisters also help fill seats at Van Noord Arena, always asking Coach John Ross for extra tickets since many family members and friends want to watch the trio play together for the first, and last, time. Family is their biggest support system; Carissa, Breanna and Kally not only have one another to lean on, but also their parents and younger brother, Chad, who are faithful fans. The team effort that the entire Verkaik family gives accounts for a lot of success.
Off the court and in the classroom, all three sisters are also strong students. Basketball may keep them busy, but it also keeps them accountable. The set schedule allows no time for procrastination. This may seem abnormal for college students, but it’s apparent that the Verkaiks aren’t your typical trio of sisters. Carissa says, “We’ve never known anything different. That’s how it was in high school, too. Homework first, social life second.”
That mindset will have to carry into the spring, as all three sisters will compete on the Calvin women’s track and field team. Since they all compete in different events, they’ll have the opportunity to cheer each other on once again, which is something the Verkaiks are looking forward to, but for now, the focus is on the basketball postseason.
With scarily similar stories, the Post and Verkaik sisters have both certainly made their mark on Calvin women’s basketball, and the Verkaik’s aren’t quite finished yet. The Post sisters attend many of the basketball games, bringing their kids along, and their families have become fans of the Verkaiks.
The Posts are impressed with how far Calvin women’s basketball has come and are proud to have helped set some of the groundwork for the program’s success. Julie says it’s great to see that Calvin has put a lot of thought into developing a top-notch, powerhouse team.
Julie, Annette and Cheryl will joke around, saying that the recent success may be due to the fact that the Verkaik sisters are stronger, faster and much better players than they ever were. Watching the Verkaiks talent on the court brings back memories to the Post sisters’ careers at Calvin; they can relate to how much fun it is being teammates with your best friends. Cheryl enjoys seeing the Verkaik sisters have the same family commitment to basketball, academics and each other, just like she and her family had.
The Post sisters were, and still are, a close-knit trio who enjoyed each other’s company on the team and now in their everyday lives. After college, the sisters went their separate ways, moving out of state for their careers which including teaching, coaching, youth ministry and even working as an athletic director. However, after Annette made the move back to Michigan, all three sisters found their way back to their home state.
Now instead of being teammates, they are coworkers, all employed at Post Family Farm in Hudsonville.
The love for the game of basketball will always be in the Post sisters’ blood.
Annette and Cheryl both have four daughters who are taking after their mom and aunts. Their girls are all homeschooled, but are still able to compete in the Hudsonville home-school league, coached by none other than the Post sisters. Annette started coaching in the program four years ago in hopes to make the home-school program less recreational and more competitive, so, naturally, she turned to her sisters for help. Now the league is more serious and the basketball is better. Each sister coaches a different level team, but they all help each other out and have a lot of fun doing so. Julie enjoys being involved in basketball again, but at the other end of it. Cheryl says the program is special because, as coaches, she and her sisters naturally develop a love for their players, but that is even truer in this situation seeing that they are coaching their daughters and nieces; it’s an all-around family effort. She also notes that program runs smoothly because, as sisters, players and coaches, the Post sisters’ personalities’ work together; their special teamwork is like the body of Christ.