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Illiana Christian loses sectional final in 10th

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Illiana Christian junior infielder Lydia VanderWoude was sure she was getting there.

The words instead came flying out of the mouth of a teammate in the dugout — “finding joy in the success of others” — as VanderWoude paused for a moment while explaining the concept of Mudita, which she said was central to the team’s success this season.

“It’s driven our team to always be cheering for other people, to not always be about me, me, me, but to be about other people too,” she said. “It’s played a role in making people mentally and physically better.”

That concept carried the Vikings through 23 games and into the 10th inning of the Class 2A Andrean Sectional championship game on Saturday night, when their season ended with a 5-4 loss to North Newton.

Illiana Christian (19-5) had an early 4-2 lead before North Newton (20-3) tied the game in the top of the fifth and then scored the winning run in the top of the 10th. VanderWoude was central to the Vikings’ early advantage.

That started in the bottom of the first, when VanderWoude reached on an error, stole two bases and scored on another error. In the second, the Belmont commit hit a two-out, two-run single by finding a pitch she wanted from North Newton junior Sydney Rainford, an East Carolina commit who entered the game with a 0.22 ERA.

“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” VanderWoude said. “I was thinking to myself that I needed to look down and not swing at the riseball. I was trying to hit something in the air and get on base — just do my job.”

But VanderWoude’s success in that at-bat didn’t give her much solace after the game, as she lamented the end of a season that had brought her so much joy.

“Our team chemistry was the greatest it’s ever been,” she said. “We were always having fun, always joking. We just loved being around each other.”

Illiana Christian's Lydia VanderWoude celebrates after a double play against North Newton during the Class 2A Andrean Sectional championship game on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Illiana Christian’s Lydia VanderWoude reacts to a double play turned against North Newton during the Class 2A Andrean Sectional championship game on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)

Illiana Christian coach Nicole Terpstra-Wondaal has a similarly fond view of the team.

“I love this group,” she said. “It’s one of the most special groups I’ve ever gotten to coach, if not the most special, because they genuinely love each other. They celebrated each other’s successes as if it was their own.”

This selfless behavior was part of the Mudita concept that Terpstra-Wondaal emphasized all season long. There was even a tangible reminder of it in the form of a large stuffed animal — a wolf named “Mudita,” of course — that was awarded to a player each week following a team vote.

Senior center fielder Avery Martin, who scored in the second inning on a single by junior infielder Lauren Sherwood, toted the wolf around for the final week of the season after the most recent vote. Martin said the weekly competition had a positive effect on the team’s collective attitude.

“It helped us open our eyes more to each other’s play,” she said. “Usually, you’re just paying attention to your own attitude and energy, but it motivated us to keep our energy up because we were all competing for it.”

Illiana Christian's Avery Martin slides into home during the Class 2A Andrean Sectional championship game on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Kyle Telechan/for the Post-Tribune)
Illiana Christian’s Avery Martin slides into home plate for a run during the Class 2A Andrean Sectional championship game against North Newton on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Kyle Telechan / Post-Tribune)

The positive atmosphere is another reason the end of the season was so difficult for Terpstra-Wondaal and the rest of the Vikings, although she believed they set an example for future teams to follow.

“They showed up every day, and everything they did had a purpose,” she said. “That’s a legacy our seniors will leave for this program which will continue on. I could not be more proud of this group, and I’m just thankful that God gave me the opportunity to coach them.”

Dave Melton is a freelance reporter.



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