By Mark DeHaan
When Mary Hoogstra was named second team All-MIAA last year as a member of the Calvin women's lacrosse team, it came as a bit of a surprise to the now senior.
In the team's first year as a varsity program, Hoogstra earned second team honors as a defensive midfielder despite playing a primarily offensive role. Hoogstra was second on Calvin's team with 42 ground balls last year, also scoring five goals and adding two assists in the squad's inaugural season.
"I was really surprised (to be named second team All-MIAA last year)," said Hoogstra. "It meant a lot especially because you don't often know how you are doing unless you score. I have never been one to score much, however, so it meant a lot to see that hard work pays off."
Double majoring in psychology and Spanish, Hoogstra works as hard in the class room as she does on the field. After graduation, Hoogstra plans on attending graduate school at the University of Michigan for social work. Hoogstra was also named to the MIAA Academic Honor Roll last season for her work in the class room as well as on the field.
It was Hoogstra's hard-working mentality that allowed head coach Blake Boehm to switch her position prior to the fall. Playing midfielder last year, Boehm switched Hoogstra to defense to better utilize her skill-set – a switch which has not bothered Hoogstra despite it being before her final year as a player.
"Last year she was second-team All MIAA at defensive middie, so (switching her position) was an opportunity for us to get her more ground balls and have her be more of a force in initiating our possessions, and she's really living up to that now," said Boehm.
"I have actually really enjoyed the switch," said Hoogstra. "I think it fits me as a player much better and really allows us to utilize the talents of other people on the team."
It is all these qualities about Hoogstra – her flexibility, work ethic, and productivity – that made her the perfect candidate as a captain for this year's team.
\"Mary's leadership transcends the field in that, in the fall, we changed her position. She was predominantly an offensive player for us, and we looked at some stats and what she could offer us, and we asked her to make a change to defense, and she did so without question," said Boehm. "She trusted our judgment and it has made her a better lacrosse player, it has made her a better leader, and her team has seen how well she has handled that adjustment and their respect for her has grown much more because of her ability to be selfless on the field."
While the lacrosse program has certainly benefitted from Hoogstra's presence over these opening two years as a varsity sport, Hoogstra has also benefitted from her time on the team.
"God has used lacrosse in a lot of ways. It has helped me grow as a person, in my dedication and effort, but it has also helped me to see and appreciate more types of people," said Hoogstra. "On a team you learn the value of every person on the team because each person brings something new and that has been interesting and fun to see over the years – how people grow in to their talents and gifts and also to see how the team forms around each other."
Just as Hoogstra has grown on the field, so has the program. From year one to year two, the team has made some impressive strides. As a senior in a second year program, Hoogstra has experienced both the club and varsity versions of the lacrosse program. Hoogstra says the commitment is much higher these past few years, and the varsity aspect of the program is beginning to take shape.
"For club, you didn't have to necessarily work out outside of practice," said Hoogstra. " Now, a lot of our team members will lift, we had 6 a.m. conditioning all during January and fall ball. It has made a huge difference this year in our on-field play."
The improvement on-field has allowed the Knights to surpass their 2013 win total of four with six wins so far in 2014, and four games yet to be played. Calvin, tied for third place at 3-1 in league play, hosts Albion on Saturday in an important matchup with the 3-0 Britons.
Although the team has shown impressive development, the Knights are not content with just increasing the number in the win column. Calvin's sights are set on a berth in the conference tournament and advancing to the tournament final, and if the Knights are to make a push as one of the top teams in the conference, each player has to understand their role on the team – and Hoogstra does just that.
Said Boehm: "It is a role in which she thrives."