(Photo courtesy of D3photography.com)
SALEM, Va. - The Calvin men's soccer team advanced to the NCAA III National Championship final with a 1-0 semifinal win over Brandeis University (Mass.) Friday afternoon on the campus of Roanoke College.
Calvin (23-2-0) will face Tufts University (14-5-2) in the NCAA III Championship final at 1:30 p.m. (EST) Saturday afternoon at Roanoke College.
In Calvin's semifinal win over Brandeis, junior Micah Beard (Otsego, Mich./Otsego HS) scored the only goal of the game, flipping a shot over the keeper's shoulder on a goalmouth scramble with just 16:02 left in regulation. The goal was set up by a free kick taken by senior Stephan Hooker (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) that was saved by the Brandeis goalkeeper but led to a rebound scrum in front of the net.
Freshman Ian Adams (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS) was able to get the first touch on the rebound but his shot was snarled in a traffic of Brandeis defenders parked on the goalline. Sliding in, Beard was able to flip the ball with the side of his leg up and over the keeper's shoulder and into the back of the net.
"I was just trying to get my legs on the ball somehow," said Beard after the match. "They (Brandeis) had a ton of defenders on the (goal) line so it was a matter of finding a way to slip it over the defense somehow. It was kind of like playing nerf soccer as a kid in the basement when you've got a bunch of people all trying to get a piece of the ball. I didn't think it was my touch that got the ball in at first but when I looked at Ian (Adams), he told me that it was."
The goal by Beard was his third of the year and came with the Knights playing with a man advantage.
After a back-and-forth first half, Brandeis (13-6-4) gained the momentum with an agressive start to the second half. The Judges fired three shots at goal in the opening 10 minutes of the second half including a pair of shots that Calvin junior goalkeeper Nate Van Ryn (Grandville, Mich./Calvin Christian HS) was forced to make big saves on. Brandeis also had an apparent goal waved off by an offsides call in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
After substituting out in the 59th minute, sophomore Jacob Witte (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS) came back on in the 73rd minute and made an immediate impact as he broke free through the middle of the field on a slotted pass from senior David Waterson (DeWitt, Mich./DeWitt HS). On the play, Witte was hauled down from behind by a Brandeis defender just shy of the 18-yard box. The Brandeis defender was given a red card and the Knights were given a free kick just outside the box, setting up Hooker's free kick and the subsequent scramble that led to the goal by Beard.
Despite playing with a man advantage, the Knights needed late game heroics from Van Ryn as Brandeis threw numbers up front in a desperate attempt to equalize. With 49 seconds left in regulation, Kyle Robinson of Brandeis lofted a shot from 25 yards out that appeared headed for the top right corner. Van Ryn thwarted the attempt however with a leaping save to keep the Knights on top and extinguish the comeback hopes of the Judges.
"It is good to be playing tomorrow," said Calvin men's soccer coach Ryan Souders who is now 95-14-6 in five years at the helm of the Knights. "I thought our guys played really well in the first half but full disclose I feel that Brandeis outplayed us in the second half and I credit Brandeis for that. They are a very good side with an outstanding head coach (Mike Coven). At the same time it's all about 'survive and advance' at this point of the season and we're happy to be playing tomorrow. I don't think today was our best (overall) game and I'm hoping we have a lot more left in the tank for tomorrow."
Brandeis finished the game with a 15-8 shots at goal advantage including 10-2 in the second half. Calvin outshot the Judges 6-5 in the opening half with both teams having excellent first half scoring chances.
The best first half scoring opportunity for Brandeis came in the 29th minute as Brandon Miskin broke free through the middle but skipped a shot off the goalpost in an attempt to beat an onrushing Van Ryn to the far corner.
Brandeis goalkeeper Ben Woodhouse came up with a pair of superlative saves in a short frame of time midway through the first half. The first came on a shot by Witte who cranked a blast from the right side of the box in the 20th minute that Woodhouse deflected wide of the goal. Just 40 seconds later, Hooker half-volleyed a shot from the top edge of the box that Woodhouse was able to parry just wide of the far post.
Woodhouse and Van Ryn both collected four saves. "I though both goalkeepers were really outstanding today," said Souders, a former goalkeeper himself at Wheaton College. "They both came up with huge saves to keep their teams in the game."
Van Ryn credited his defensive unit in front of him in posting his 14th shutout victory of the season. "I thought my defense in front of me did a great job," said Van Ryn. "Brandeis really came at us on the attack in the second half and my guys were huge in keeping them off the (score) board. This team just loves each other and will do anything for anyone on the team. That's what makes this team so special to be a part of."
Calvin will now turn its attention to a Tufts University (Mass.) team that defeated St. Thomas (Mn.) 2-1 in Friday's opening semifinal game. Tufts captured the 2014 national championship. The Knights and Jumbos will be meeting for the first time in men's soccer.
"They (Tufts) are a really good team," said Souders. "They play in arguably one of the toughest Division III conferences in the nation and there's a reason they won the national title two years ago. They are well-coached and they are good. When you get to a national final, there are no easy opponents and tomorrow afternoon will be no different. We will have a big challenge in front of us but we are excited for the opportunity."
Calvin is making its third appearance in the NCAA III Championship final. The Knights also reached the final in 2009 and 2011 but lost to Messiah 2-0 in 2009 and to Ohio Wesleyan 2-1 in 2011.
Calvin Men's Soccer Team Headed to National Championship Final with 1-0 Semifinal Win Over Brandeis
(Photo courtesy of D3photography.com)