GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Calvin women's soccer team opens the 2017 season on Friday in Wisconsin. The Maroon and Gold are coming off an 11-9-1 record in 2016. The Knights finished in third place in the MIAA at 10-5-1. Leading the Knights in his 17th is head coach Mark Recker, who has claimed eight MIAA titles during his time at Calvin.
"I was anticipating having a lot of newcomers and you always wonder how they will adapt and their capability at this competitive level," said head coach Mark Recker. "We have the elements of potentially putting together a great group of players. It will be a testament this year of how we merge together our returners and our newcomers."
The 2017 team is made up of 26 players, including 11 returners. The Knights have big shoes to fill with the 2016 senior class scoring 22 of the 39 goals in 2016. Calvin's leading returning scorer is junior Bekah Maguire (Holland, Mich./Holland Christian), who scored three goals and tallied two assists in 2016. Senior Emily VanVeldhuisen (Brookeville, Md./Washington Christian Academy) also notched three goals in 2016. Junior Kali Mouw (Avon, N.Y./Avon Central) earned All-MIAA Second Team honors in 2016. Mouw made her mark as an outside back on Calvin's defensive unit. She also played a key role in Calvin posting five shutouts in conference action. Mouw also scored two goals for Calvin in MIAA games.
The Knights will be youthful in 2017. Coach Recker added 14 freshman to the roster for the year. Calvin has newcomers from six different states.
The Knights look to ride the momentum of the 2016 season. The Maroon and Gold finished the regular season winners of five of their final six geames.
Calvin was selected to finish third in the 2017 MIAA Preseason Poll. The Knights tallied one first-place vote and 46 points. Hope was projected to finish first with four first-place votes and Albion was at 49 points, with one first-place vote.
"I do think the MIAA is in a position this year where teams are going through roster culture changes," said Recker. "That can sometimes go well; it can sometimes blow up on you. Whenever there is a large percentage of your performance culture that is new it can take time and the talent pool you have might take years to simmer and grow and there are a lot of teams in that category this year. Every team needs leaders and leadership change is always a challenge. My understanding is that the teams of the lower end of the finish last year also had some extremely good recruiting. If that is true, knowing the coaches and what they can do, will make them competitive."
The Knights will have four non-conference games in 2017. The Knights open the year at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where they will play Lake Forest and MSOE. Calvin then hosts Heidelberg on Sept. 9 and travels to Wheaton on Sept. 20.
"We have played at Milwaukee School of Engineering in past and gone to their site around this time of year a few years ago," said Recker. "It came after bowing out in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament the year before and we happened to face the team that knocked us out and we beat them. We won that showcase; Those are the type of things that can transform a team. They move from I think we can to a belief in we can do this. For us, a trip to MSOE who was in the NCAA Tournament and Lake Forest will be a good game for us."
Calvin opens the home schedule on Sept. 6 under the lights at Zuidema Field on Sept. 6 against Kalamazoo.