GPAC Honors athletes make a strong showing this season

Christian Zylstra- Staff Writer

The fall athletics season was a fruitful one for Dordt College athletes, who earned a total of 28 GPAC Honors across six sports.

Football snagged the most GPAC Honors, with nine total. Volleyball wasn’t far behind, with seven honorees. Men and women’s cross country earned a combined six honors, as did men and women’s soccer.

GPAC Honors are awarded after the conclusion of a sport’s regular season. Most honors are determined via voting among the GPAC coaches.

Among Dordt football’s nine GPAC honorees are three all-GPAC First Team winners: seniors Bryce Lidtka, Jacob Cook and Jason Miller. Junior Griffin Pelot earned all-GPAC Second Team honors. The other five football honorees—senior Gerrit Wybenga, junior Joey Lovetere, sophomore Devin Eekhoff, sophomore Rickey Nelson and junior Josiah Kotte—earned honorable mention.

Lidtka set numerous rushing records in his junior season, including yards (1,753), carries (274) and touchdowns (24). Accompanying the Dordt records, Lidtka led NAIA football in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

Miller set three program records himself with 74 receptions, 1,311 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Miller was also a statistical leader in the NAIA, ranking second in receiving yards and third in receptions.

“These men made a tremendous commitment to being their best,” said Joel Penner, Dordt College head football coach. “If football were compared to a battle, these are our front-line guys, and we would not have achieved what we did without them.”

Dordt football’s 2016 season was the best in program history, grabbing five overall wins and two conference wins. Dordt ended the season with a 5-6 overall record and 2-6 record in GPAC competition.

Volleyball, coming off the most successful season in program history, earned three all-GPAC First Team honors, two all-GPAC Second Team honors and two all-GPAC honorable mentions.

Senior Brooke Granstra, sophomore Ema Altena and sophomore Jaime Gesink earned First Team honors as a group for the second consecutive season. Granstra led Dordt in kills per set this year with 4.13, Altena led Dordt with 45 aces and Gesink led the GPAC with 10.73 assists per set.

Senior Elizabeth Kiel and junior Haley Moss earned Second Team honors, while senior Jill Schouten and junior Summer Jansen received honorable mention.

“These seven women…care about each other,” said Dordt volleyball coach Chad Hanson. “They care about all the right things and doing them well. When it comes to our practice gym, they seek to grow in skill areas and team system areas.”

GPAC Honors are awarded differently for cross country. Athletes earn GPAC honors for finishing in the top-15 at the GPAC Championship meet, held this year in Hastings, Neb.

Two men’s cross country runners, senior Caleb Drake (2nd) and senior Nick VanderKooi (7th), earned honors with top-notch performances at the GPAC Championship.

Four women’s cross country runners finished top-15 at the GPAC Championship. Sophomore Annechiena Knevelbaard (7th), senior Julia Bos (10th), junior Erika Douma (11th) and senior Audrey Brooks (13th) snagged all-GPAC honors.

“This process started for them in early June and culminated in the races in November,” said Nate Wolf, the Dordt College men and women’s cross country head coach. “Cross country is a sport where the process is long and the payoff for being committed to the process is not always readily seen for weeks or even months. It was incredibly fun to see both teams’ work pay off with All-Conference honors.”

Dordt women’s cross country finished 11th as a team at the NAIA Championships. Drake finished 17th in the men’s race.

Men’s soccer snatched three all-GPAC honors, including a First Team selection for senior Alex Durbin. Durbin scored 22 goals, the fifth-most in NAIA during 2016, and the second-most in Defender program history.

“Alex had a tremendous season,” said Dordt men’s soccer coach Craig Stiemsma. “He was a dynamic scorer for us all season long. He works so hard and put constant pressure on defenses and was always a threat to score.”

Senior midfielder Cody Van Holland earned Second Team honors, while sophomore defender Kenton Cleveringa received honorable mention.

“Cody…really controlled the middle of the field,” Stiemsma said. “He was the true definition of a coach on the field for us. Kenton just kept getting better and better during his sophomore campaign. He really excelled in conference, even as he moved around in the backline when we had injuries and illness.”

Women’s soccer had three dynamic all-GPAC honorees of its own. Junior Natalie Sakuma received Second Team honors, tying for the team-lead with 12 goals. She also totaled seven assists.

“Natalie was at her strongest mentally this season, and she was able to turn things over up front,” said Bill Elgersma, the Dordt College women’s soccer head coach.

Junior Raquelle Mouw, who also scored 12 goals for the Defenders, earned honorable mention, as did senior Courtney Long.

“Courtney played bigger than she is every time she stepped on the field, and our opponents acknowledged that,” Elgersma said. “Raquelle simply took the team on her shoulders when [Natalie and Courtney] were injured and moved [us] forward.”

Dordt men and women’s soccer are both coming off seasons as the No. 8 seed in the GPAC tournament. Both teams fell at Hastings in GPAC Quarterfinal matchups.

As the page turns and winter sports start hitting their stride, Dordt envisions more individual and collective team success.

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