by Derek Neice
Going into his junior year, Ryan Bratt was planning on a starting goalkeeper position for Calvin’s men’s soccer team. He had patiently waited and was ready to stand between the posts for the Knights.
But when injuries and some disappointing early season performances interfered, Bratt remained on the sidelines, watching two other keepers see playing time.
“I was coming off an injury (from the previous season) my junior year. I never got into the swing of things and lost a lot of confidence. I was really frustrated,” said Bratt.
With two keepers ahead of him, playing time was hardly realistic. Then, before the crucial regular season finale with Hope, Bratt heard his name called. Both Jared Rushlau and Michael Dolan were hampered by injury.
Calvin entered the Hope game needing a victory to keep its post-season dreams alive. The showdown with Hope at Calvin’s Zuidema Field was shaping up to be the biggest game of the year.
“We had a tournament berth on the line. I was nervous two days before the game,” he said. Before the game, the captains approached Bratt and expressed their confidence in him.
“The team dealt with the situation really well. I knew my teammates were behind me,” Bratt said. Once the whistle blew, those nerves disappeared.
“I was just riding adrenaline at that point. And it’s easy to feel confident with that defense,” he said.
Bratt ended up making five saves en route to a shut-out victory over the Dutch. Bratt’s performance helped earn a tournament bid for the Knights and sparked their post-season run.
In post-season play, the Knights continued to roll, posting five straight victories and earning Calvin its first ever trip to the Final Four.
Two of those five victories were shoot-out wins, where Bratt’s crucial saves propelled Calvin to nailbiting wins. Combined, Bratt allowed a mere five goals on 11 penalty kicks.
“[The tournament run] was pretty storybook,” he said. “I like the shoot-out scene because all the pressure is on the other guy.”
“He came up big when we needed him to come up big,” said Coach Chris Hughes. “We trusted him and he came through.”
This fall, Bratt delivered again in the NCAA III Tournament, winning penalty-kick shootouts against Dominican University and Wisconsin-Whitewater as the Knights reached the national quarterfinals before falling to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Off the field, Bratt posts a 3.44 GPA as an English and religion major with a philosophy minor. He was named to the ESPN Academic All-District IV second team. He hopes to apply for the Teach for America Program and get a job in the education field. Bratt represents the fourth generation in his family to attend Calvin. “I always knew I was going to Calvin,” he said.
As a senior, Bratt allowed only 12 goals in 24 games for a goals-against-average of 0.50 as he was named to the All-MIAA first team and All-Central Region third team.“We went through the same thing last year,” said Bratt.“We knew that we were capable of coming back, and we had the talent to play with anyone.” [This winter, Ryan Bratt was named to NSCAA Scholar All-Region Team.]
Playing time once seemed a distant reality for Bratt, who became a pillar between the pipes. Coach Chris Hughes found it easy to stay confident with Bratt minding the net.“It’s so important to have confidence in a keeper. He has faced a lot of pressure here, and we had trust with him in the goal.”
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