For the second time in three years, the Calvin men’s soccer team came within one step of winning a national championship. Under the direction of head coach Chris Hughes, Calvin advanced to the NCAA III Championship finals this past December in San Antonio, Texas, falling to Ohio Wesleyan 2-1 in the title tilt. The memorable run came two years after the Knights had reached the 2009 NCAA III finals, where they were defeated by Messiah (Pa.) 2-0.
Making a run through the NCAA III Tournament did not appear to be feasible when the Knights were upset by Olivet 1-0 in the MIAA tournament semifinals. When the NCAA III Tournament field was announced just a few days later, Calvin received an at-large bid to the tournament, giving the Knights their fifth consecutive bid to the NCAA III championship chase.
Calvin’s tournament trail took place completely on the road as the Knights were sent to a four-team regional at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. At the regional, Calvin edged Carthage (Wis.) 1-0 on a late second-half goal by junior Nick Holtrop (Hudsonville, Mich.). The following night Calvin upset host Loras 4-0 behind goals from freshmen Sean Broekhuizen (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and Travis Vegter (Hudsonville, Mich.) and two goals from sophomore Zach Willis (Grandville, Mich.).
With two wins in their pocket, the Knights were sent across to the country to a sectional hosted by the University of Redlands (Calif.). While there, the Knights were welcomed warmly by hundreds of Calvin alumni living in the area. The team was treated to dinner at The River Christian Reformed Church in Redlands and also hiked in the nearby San Bernardino mountains.
Calvin faced host Redlands in its first sectional game and advanced by winning a penalty kick shootout with sophomore Mirza Harambasic (Kentwood, Mich.) making a key save in goal in the shootout while Holtrop was able to strike the winning penalty kick. Playing in front of a large crowd of Calvin fans the following night in the national quarterfinals, Calvin defeated the University of Texas at Tyler in improbable fashion. Trailing 2-1 with less than 10 minutes left in regulation, Calvin was forced to play a man short because of a red card. Calvin responded to the adversity as senior Brad Heethuis (Jenison, Mich.) scored the game-tying goal with just over four minutes left and junior Trevor Bushhouse (Wheaton, Ill.) then tallied the game-winning goal in overtime, sending Calvin on the NCAA III Final Four in San Antonio.
At the Final Four, Calvin defeated Oneonta State (N.Y.) 4-2 in the semifinals behind two goals from Travis Vegter and single goals from Heethuis and senior Brad Wassink (Long Beach, Calif.). In the finals, Ohio Wesleyan jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind a pair of late first-half goals. Vegter scored again for Calvin early in the second half to cut the deficit in half, but the Knights were unable to come up with the equalizer down the stretch. At the conclusion of the game, Vegter, junior Dan Nederhoed (Kentwood, Mich.) and sophomore Lawrence Murray (Ada, Mich.) were named to the all-tournament team.
“We had a fantastic tournament run,” said Calvin men’s soccer coach Chris Hughes, who is now 154-48-22 in 10 years as coach. “We had adversity throughout the year with injuries and tough breaks but we always had guys step up. I think the most exciting thing was the way our young players seized the moment. The future for our team continues to look very bright.”
Also at the NCAA III Final Four, Wassink was named the recipient of the prestigious NCAA Elite 89 Award for Division III men’s soccer for holding the highest grade point average of any competing men’s soccer player at the Final Four. A political science and English major, Wassink holds a 3.94 grade point average.
Calvin finished the season with an overall record of 19-6-2 and captured the MIAA regular-season title with a league record of 11-2-1. The regular-season MIAA crown was Calvin’s fifth straight—marking the first time a men’s soccer team achieved the feat in MIAA history. Highlights of the regular season included a 2-1 win over non-conference rival Wheaton and a 2-0 and a 1-0 wins over rival Hope in league play.
Senior defender Miles Colago (Anoka, Minn.) was later named a third team Division III All-American and also was named a Capital One Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Director’s Association of America.