Summer 2022

Led by faith, Hope College women's basketball team riding NCAA-best 55-game winning streak

You’d have to go all the way back to the end of the 2019 season to find a loss attributed to the Hope College (Holland, Michigan) women’s basketball team. And it was one of the worst losses head coach Brian Morehouse has endured in his 25 years at Hope — a 79-49 loss to Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) in the NCAA Tournament.

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That loss became the catalyst for what is now the longest active winning streak in all of college basketball in any division, men’s or women’s — 55 games that span 781 days.

It’s the sixth-longest winning streak in Division III women’s basketball history. The next mark Hope will look to surpass is the 58-game streak for DePauw University (Greencastle, Indiana) from 2012-2014.

Washington University in St. Louis holds the record at 81 straight games.

Following that loss to Wartburg, Morehouse and his coaches stayed up all night analyzing what went wrong — both in the game and within the program — and it included having some heart-to-heart discussions with everyone involved about where the program was. Coaches addressed some things they needed to address and talked about ridding the program of some toxic mindsets that had been adopted.

“It was a very hard discussion, but we walked out of that room, I think, with a group of players and coaches that were intent on being very intentional about communication, relationships and work ethic,” Morehouse told Sports Spectrum, “and we haven’t lost since.”

Hope’s streak started with a 78-48 win over Luther College (Decorah, Iowa) on Nov. 2, 2019, and then the Flying Dutch went 29-0 during the 2019-20 season before the COVID-19 pandemic ended the season abruptly when the team was in the Sweet 16, playing at home with a chance to go to the Final Four.

Hope started the 2020-21 season 16-0 before, once again, its season ended early in March, again due to the pandemic.

The women are off to a 10-0 start this season, with their next game set for Wednesday against Central College (Pella, Iowa) in Orlando, Florida. After having two potential championship seasons canceled before they could see them through to the end, they have even more motivation this season.

Hope has two national championships in program history, in 2006 and 1990.

Hope College

Hope College head coach Brian Morehouse talking to the team during a timeout. (Photo by Steve Herppich/Hope College Athletics)

“A big part goes back to our culture,” said Morehouse, who was the head coach for the 2006 championship team. “I think that’s maybe the most overused term in athletics right now. I think a lot of people say they’ve got this great culture, but for us, our culture is something we fiercely protect.”

For the Hope women’s basketball team, faith in Jesus is a big part of that culture. Several players are involved in a players-only Bible study, and many are involved in service projects, which Morehouse said is a way for his players to live out their faith. The program is heavily involved with the Miracle League, which sets up organized baseball games for people with special needs. The Hope women also host a basketball “skills and drills” camp as well as a tournament in partnership with the Special Olympics.

Several players also go on mission trips, through the college, to places like the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Sudan, where they deliver water filtration devices and host sports camps to reach people. On the school’s website, it is described as a college “where academic excellence and vibrant Christian faith join together in a supportive and welcoming community.”

With their faith at the front of their mind, Hope’s women’s team operates with belief in “the power of the circle.”

“Our circle is really what we believe in,” Morehouse said. “The reason we are in a circle all the time is because there’s no one person who is more important than another. Nobody is in the front of the line. I’m no more important than our student-assistant coach, than our athletic trainer, than our strength coach, than our best All-Americans.

“There’s nobody that’s more important than anybody else. So our strength is in our circle, and it’s leaning on the person to your left and right.”

They also believe in a “win everything” mindset, which has nothing to do with the outcomes on the court, but the extra things — like thanking the bus driver when entering or exiting the bus, sitting in the front three rows of the classroom, how they treat people who serve them at restaurants, or leaving locker rooms better than they found them.

“I just think it all builds and it all ties back, I think, to the culture of our team, the faith base of our program, wanting to use the success of our team as a platform to be able to discuss our faith, but also not wanting to put that in somebody’s face and be arrogant about it,” Morehouse said. “We just know it’s a part of what we do and that, along with our culture, is going to allow us to be the best version of ourselves day in and day out.”

While excelling on the court is certainly part of it, Morehouse said when they approach life with that “winning mindset,” basketball simply goes along for the journey, but it isn’t the journey.

“There are a lot of ways it all plays out, but the cool thing for us is that by winning a bunch of basketball games, people ask questions like this,” Morehouse said. “I can talk about having amazing basketball players who go above and beyond anything I would ever ask of them to get in the gym and get better at basketball.”

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