Caleb Pollema – Staff Writer
Empty stadiums and disappointed sports fans were found across the country throughout this spring and most of the summer.
The news of leagues, ranging from high school to professional levels, cancelling or postponing seasons have consumed the news over the course of the past five months.
However, that narrative changed this past weekend with the return of fall sports to Dordt University, despite a delayed start to the season.
The fall sports seasons kicked off for cross country and women’s volleyball on Saturday with attendance restrictions and enhanced protocols. Such guidelines were outlined in a letter to Defender Nation sent out at the beginning of the week from Dordt University Director of Athletics, Ross Douma.
The volleyball triangular limited attendance to families and a maximum of 75 Dordt students. Masks were required for all spectators inside the DeWitt. Cross country had similar, but not as strict protocols, with the event being held outdoors.
“We are hopeful our patience and restraint results in further opportunities to have more spectators as the semester progresses,”
“We are hopeful our patience and restraint results in further opportunities to have more spectators as the semester progresses,” Douma said.
Both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams opened the day at 10:00am with the Dordt University Sunflower Opener. Fans packed the course to get a glimpse of one of the first NAIA competitions of the year.
Sports were back. Finally.
The women started the morning by placing first in the meet with an average time of 19:06.51 for each runner.
Dordt sophomore, Taylor Anema placed first in the event among GPAC teams with a time of 18:37.51.
The men’s team continued the strong start with a first-place finish of their own in the meet. Dordt’s top runner, Davis Tebben, ran a 25:40.85, and placed first in the event.
The Defenders’ top four men’s runners, Tebben, Eric Steiger, Franklin Reinders, and Nic Veldhorst, all placed within the top 12 of the entire meet.
The day was a perfect start to a season that has been anything but certain.
“We talked going into this meet that we needed to race like this may be our only opportunity to race this year,” said head coach, Nate Wolf. “Both teams responded to that idea and started the year off very strong.”
Not only athletes, but also fans have been waiting for with great anticipation for the start of the fall sports season. This can be said of Dordt senior, Cole Evans, who is a close friend and roommate of Dordt runner, Franklin Reinders.
“I always enjoy watching Frank run because it’s something he loves doing,” Evans said. “It makes me happy to see him happy.”
The momentum of a great day would continue for Dordt Athletics as the action transitioned inside to the Dewitt gymnasium for the home opener for the women’s volleyball team.
The Defenders took on the visiting Eagles of Northwestern University from Minneapolis in front of the small crowd of family, friends, and a limited number of students.
The Eagles came out with the victory in the first set after scoring the final five points of the set to win, 25-20.
Dordt regrouped and returned the favor by scoring the final five points of the second set after a 20-20 tie. The Defenders would win the set by a final of 25-20.
That momentum propelled the Defenders to a 25-20 victory in set three with a kill by Jessi De Jager to end the set.
Dordt ended the match in four sets with the final set coming down to extra points. De Jager led the Defenders with 10 kills and Karsyn Winterfeld added eight.
With the victory, the Defenders moved to 1-0 on the season. Dordt will begin conference play immediately – with their next match coming against Dakota Wesleyan as they try to build off the momentum of the victory in the opener.
“We’ve been working so hard up until this moment,” said senior libero, Hannah Connelly. “I was ready to showcase all we’d been working on in the practice gym! It was a long time coming, and a lot of effort went in to making this first gameday happen.”
Head coach Chad Hanson was proud of the way his team battled through a highly- competitive match, especially with all the work that went into making the night possible.
“We are truly grateful for tonight and hopeful for a wonderful week ahead as we prepare to open conference play,” Hanson said.
Despite the restrictions and protocols, Defender athletics are back in action. Athletes and fans alike are grateful for the opportunity to return to the course, court, and field.
Sports are back. Finally.