SALEM, Va. - In its third attempt for a national championship, the Calvin men's soccer team came up agonizingly short, falling to Tufts University (Mass.) 1-0 in double-overtime in the NCAA III Tournament finals Saturday afternoon on the campus of Roanoke College.
Tufts (15-5-2) junior Tyler Kulcsar was able to get a boot on a ball in the Calvin box on a corner kick sent in by teammate Kevin Halliday with 6:44 left in the second overtime. Kulcsar's touch in a sliver of space was good enough to redirect the ball past Calvin goalkeeper Nate Van Ryn (Grandville, Mich./Calvin Christian HS) and into the back of the net.
Van Ryn stood tall for Calvin all day, collecting five saves and snaring a collection of dangerous crosses sent in by the Jumbos.
The national championship final featured a matchup of top-flight goalkeeping as Tufts goalkeeper Scott Greenwood was also superb, making five saves including a crucial stop off a free kick by Calvin senior Stephan Hooker (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) from just outside the box with just over 11 minutes left in regulation.
Calvin nearly scored in the 58th minute as junior Mitch Stark (South Lyon, Mich./South Lyon HS) sent a shot just wide of the far post off a crafty set-up pass from Hooker.
Hooker had a big chance in the first half on a square pass in the box from sophomore Jacob Witte (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian HS). Hooker was able to meet the pass on point but his point-blank shot was smothered by Greenwood who read the play well at the near post.
In the 72nd minute, Witte created a scoring chance for the Knights with a corner kick to the far side of the box. Senior Jacob Lyon (Holt, Mich./Lansing Christian HS) was able to head the corner kick serve back to the far post. His header skipped off the crossbar and back into play. Sophomore Trent Vegter (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) was able to head the ball to the right and junior Matt Hinds (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth HS) followed with a third header in the sequence that sailed just wide of the goal.
In the first overtime, Tufts was able to fire a pair of shots at goal, one of which was snared by Van Ryn with a leaping one-handed grab.
Calvin came up with one shot in the second overtime before Tufts was able to push the ball upfield, create a corner kick and set up the game-winning sequence.
The national championship is the second in three years for Tufts as it also claimed the 2014 title.
"I thought it was a great game. We are obviously gutted,maybe even devastated to be on the underside of it but that's the way you want a national championship game to look like," said Calvin men's soccer coach Ryan Souders. "That's a great (Tufts) team. There's a reason they are champions two ouf the last three years. I thought our guys created chances. I felt like we did enough to win the game but they got a break, got a set piece, found a really small hole in our defense over the course of 104 minutes and finished the chance. Congrats to Tufts. Well-earned. It leaves us wanting obviously but I'm really proud of our guys. They gave a great 104 minutes of effort and I'm really proud of them."
Tufts finished the game with a 14-13 shots at goal advantage. Calvin held a 10-6 edge in corner kicks.
In addition to Van Ryn, Van Doorne had a superlative effort on Saturday, playing the entire 104 minutes while serving as a box-to-box midfielder. Van Doorne was able to come up with numerous 50-50 balls while igniting Calvin's attack and slowing the Tufts offensive surge.
Van Doorne, Witte and sophomore defender Trent Vegter (Hudsonville, Mich./Unity Christian HS) were all named to the all-tournament team from Calvin.
Van Doorne was one of five Calvin seniors who dressed for the Knights on Saturday. Combined, the senior class has produced an overall won-loss record of 79-11-5 that included four MIAA regular season titles, three trips to the NCAA III Tournament, two trips to the NCAA III Tournament semifinals and one appearance in the NCAA III Tournament final. According to Souders, the leadership of the senior class has been integral to the program's success this year and also moving forward.
"Our seniors lost 11 games in four years," said Souders. "That's nuts. From a soccer standpoint, it's hard to do better than that. At the same time what they have done is pave the way for our future. I'm not just talking about soccer but also about the future of our young men. We graduated a big group of seniors last year so this year's group of seniors had to find their own voice and they did that extremely well. The men that they are and the brothers that they are to their teammates has been incredible and what they will be remembered for."
Saturday's game marked the program's third appearance in the national final as the Knights fell 2-0 to Messiah in 2009 and 2-1 to Ohio Wesleyan in 2011.
Calvin Men's Soccer Suffers Double-Overtime Heartbreaker to Tufts in NCAA III Championship Final