Knights soccer falls in Souders’ return to Wheaton
After four years at Wheaton College, three of them as the goalkeeper for the men’s soccer team, Ryan Souders made a return to his alma mater. Not as a player, but as an opposing coach. His return did not go as planned, as Calvin fell to host Wheaton 3-1.
Ryan Souders accepted the Calvin head men’s soccer coach vacancy in June, 2012. His first day on the job, Souders took a peek at Calvin’s schedule for the upcoming season.
“I remember my first day here,” Souders commented. “I saw we were scheduled to play at Wheaton, and I became very excited.”
Souders grew up in Wheaton, Illinois and attended Wheaton Academy High School. A standout on the baseball team, Souders graduated high school thinking of played baseball collegiately in college.
“I played baseball at Wheaton just my freshmen year,” Souders said. “I was convinced into played soccer my sophomore year, and the rest is history.”
History indeed. Finishing just third in the CCIW (Collegiate College of Illinois and Wisconsin) during his senior year, Wheaton won its end of season conference tournament which earned the Thunder a ticket into the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Tournament.
Everything clicked. Wheaton played its best soccer of the year and made a deep run all the way to the championship game. There, Wheaton fell to Messiah College 3-0.
“I felt totally and completely blessed,” Souders explained. “I made it to the final game. I ended my career at the furthest point with my teammates. I thank God every day for that opportunity.”
After college, Souders played semi-professionally in Charlotte, North Carolina. After two years later, he started his coaching career as an assistant at Wheaton in 2008.
“I gained some valuable coaching experience under Coach Giuliano,” Souders said of the current head men’s soccer coach at Wheaton.
After Wheaton, Souders moved on to Division I Davidson University, and he served as the team’s goalkeepers coach until his hiring at Calvin.
“At the time of my hiring, and still now, I’m ecstatic to be a part of both Calvin College, as an institution, as well as its men’s soccer program specifically,” said Souders shortly after his hiring this past June.
Heading into the matchup with Wheaton, Calvin had beaten the Thunder four straight times, despite having a 6-38-6 career record against Wheaton.
“It’s going to be a whirlwind of emotion,” Souders said several days before the game. “Wheaton was great to me. Not just the college, but the town. I’m not only excited to play against a great team in Wheaton, but to see all the family and friends that will be at the game.”
Many people in the crowd Souders speaks of traded their blue and orange in for maroon and gold.
“Much of my family will be wearing maroon and gold,” Souders said with a laugh before getting on the bus. “I’m anticipating a great crowd at the game.”
And a great crowd there was. 1,231 spectators packed Joe Bean Field last Friday, the most of any Wheaton home game this year.
Just 13 minutes into the game, Wheaton opened up the scoring with a goal from Mitchell Paur.
The Knights responded, putting pressure on Ryan Seager, Wheaton’s goalkeeper. Calvin put five shots on goal in as many minutes. The first four were saved by Seager. The fifth, a shot from Calvin junior Zach Willis, narrowly missed the net, hitting the woodwork.
Wheaton found the net once more before the end of the first half on a shot from 25 yards out.
Just ten minutes into the second half, Wheaton senior Adam Beckman scored his second goal of the contest, catching Knight’s goalkeeper Jared Rushlow off of his line. Calvin mustered a single goal from freshmen Taylor Pius in the remaining 30 minutes, making the final score 3-1.
“It was a tough pill for me to swallow, going back home,” Souders said. “I would have loved little more than a win at Joe Bean Field, but we didn’t play well enough to win. I love the guys we have, and am excited to move forward with this group.”
Since this matchup with Wheaton, Calvin needed an overtime goal from sophomore Travis Vegter to defeat the Trine Thunder 2-1 on Tuesday.
The Knights return to action this Saturday when they host the Albion College Britons. The game is scheduled to start at 2:30pm at Zuidema Field.