HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — As the late stages of the game started to creep in, you could sense a feeling of not only accomplishment but relief in the DeVos Fieldhouse Saturday night.

The Hope Women’s Basketball team had just withstood another run from New York University to go back up double figures. New York had to call a timeout. Roughly 3,000 fans dressed in orange were echoing “let’s go Hope, let’s go Hope”.

It finally seemed like everything was coming together how it was supposed to for the Flying Dutch.

After three years, two NCAA Tournament chances taken from them and a nationally known winning streak of 61 games, Hope can finally exhale as the team heads to the Division III Final Four.

“It’s really hard to describe the feeling right now,” senior guard Kennedy Schoonveld said, surrounded by fans on the floor. “Two years ago we were supposed to be in the Sweet 16, so it felt good to just be here this weekend. To say we’ve made it to the Final Four is an unreal feeling.”

Schoonveld would lead Hope with 21 points while adding seven rebounds. Sydney Muller had 14 points while Olivia Voskuil added 10.

As the nets began to get cut, head coach Brian Morehouse held a purple cloth to his face, fighting the tears back. 

This was a long awaited moment for the head coach who guided this program to elite heights.

“We have the best group in the country you could ask to coach and we have some of the best fans in the nation with this turnout today,” Morehouse said. “This was something they earned and no one can take from them like it was the last couple years…Just look around, this is what it’s all about.”

While Hope was ultimately the better team in this Elite 8 matchup, NYU was there to win that game and for good parts of the game they played like it.

At halftime, Hope only led by one point and the feeling was a bit uneasy in the building. After falling behind by double digits, NYU found a way to make it 57-52 in the third quarter again.

That’s when Hope dug in its heels. 

With just over eight minutes remaining, senior center Olivia Voskuil took an entry pass, pivoted and made a shot through contact plus the foul. She let out a roar and the crowd followed with it. It put Hope back up by eight points and a sense of reality started to set in that Hope was minutes away from the Final Four. 

Those are the moments Voskuil envisioned herself in when she committed to Hope five years ago.

“It really is just like living out your dreams,” Voskuil said. “This feeling is better than anything I could’ve imagined, what we just did, it’s just remarkable and we’re excited there is more work to do.”

The next task on that chart is to defeat Trine University, Hope’s opponent in the Final Four on Thursday in Pittsburgh. 

While Hope did defeat Trine two-of-three times this season, Trine’s win did end Hope’s historic win streak.

This celebration is something Morehouse wants to soak in, but it will be short lived.

“I’ll probably give myself about 24, no, 12 hours before I start watching some film (for Trine),” Morehouse said. “There is more we want to accomplish.”

While Hope does have a quick turnaround, what happened Saturday night in Holland will be remembered for a long time. 

A team that had to battle through the pandemic, having chances ripped away back-to-back seasons at an NCAA title, as the clear best team in the country, finally has its shot.

The next game is the most important one, but this journey for Hope has been a memory for a lifetime.