2010 Calvin Men’s Soccer Preview
Saturday, August 21, 2010
The 2009 Calvin men’s soccer season was a season to remember - certainly a season that will go down in the history books of Calvin College athletics. The goal of Calvin soccer coach Chris Hughes however is to put the 2009 season in the rearview mirror and look ahead to the 2010 campaign.
“Last year was a season that no one will ever forget,” said Hughes. “Advancing all the way to the national championship game was something our program had never accomplished before. It was a wonderful historical moment for our program and one we will always cherish. But last year was last year. We can’t focus on what happened in the past. We have to look ahead and focus on the here and now.”
With 17 letterwinners returning including 15 that played in the 2009 NCAA III Championship final against Messiah (PA), Hughes will have a veteran team with which to work. Of the 17 returning letterwinners, 11 received at least one starting assignment during the 2009 season including eight that started in the 2009 national final. In addition, five of Calvin’s top six scorers in terms of points return.
Calvin will also enter the 2010 season ranked second as the Knights garnered the number-two spot in the Division III National Soccer Coaches Association pre-season poll.
“We have an experienced group of guys,” said Hughes. “The challenge for them will be to improve individually and together as a unit. Can we put together two strong halves of play together on a consistent basis? Can we develop strong chemistry? Who will step up as leaders? Those are questions that will need to be answered with this team.”
Calvin will be seeking to become the first team in MIAA men’s soccer history to claim four consecutive outright league titles. Calvin captured four straight league crowns from 1973-to-1976 but shared the crown in 1975. Kalamazoo also captured four straight league titles from 1988-to-1991 but shared the title with Calvin in 1990 and 1991. Overall, Calvin has won an MIAA-leading 20 conference titles.
Keeping the current championship string alive will be a challenge said Hughes. “Every year our league gets better and better,” said Hughes. “We found that out first hand last fall when we had to scrape and claw to win the (MIAA) championship right down to the final seconds of our (conference) schedule. You can’t afford to sleep on anyone in our league at home or on the road because any team can come up and bite you. That’s a credit to the coaches in our league and to their players.”
One player who helped Calvin scrape and claw its way back to the 2009 MIAA title is senior striker Brad Heethuis (Jenison/Unity Christian HS) who is the top returning scorer for the Knights. Heethuis netted seven goals and assisted on five others for 19 points. Heethuis also garnered five game-winning goals in 2009 including the game-winner in Calvin’s 1-0 victory over Dominican in the national semifinals as well as the game-winner in Calvin’s MIAA title-clinching 1-0 win over Hope in its regular season finale. During his two years of varsity play, Heethuis has eight game-winning goals.
Senior midfielder Kurt Van Sickel (Pittsburgh, PA/Trinity Christian HS) and senior striker Scott Hooker (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS) tied for third on the Calvin scoring list last fall with 14 points each. Van Sickel had six goals and two assists while Hooker chalked up five goals and four assists en route to earning a spot on the All-MIAA second team. A three-year starter up front, Hooker was named to the All-Central Region second team last fall. A first team All-MIAA selection in 2007 and 2008, Hooker was named to the Great Lakes All-Region third team in 2008 and will enter the 2010 season with career totals of 22 goals, 23 assists and 67 points.
The catalyst of the Calvin offensive attack is senior midfielder Dan Kmetz (Strongsville, OH/Strongsville HS) who was a first team All-MIAA, first team All-Central Region and thir team Division III All-America selection last fall. Kmetz was fifth on the team in scoring with 13 points on the strength of four goals and five assists with three of his goals serving as game-winners. Kmetz also performed well at the NCAA III Final Four, earning a spot on the Final Four All Tournament team.
Another player to watch up front is sophomore striker Joe Broekhuizen (Grand Rapids/South Christian HS) who tallied four goals and three assists last year to rank sixth on the team in points (11). Another sophomore striker to keep an eye on is Chris Nance (Washington, MI/Warren DeLaSalle HS) who had two goals and three assists (7 points) as a first-year player. Nance converted the clinching penalty kick in Calvin’s shootout victory over Transylvania in the NCAA III Quarterfinals.
Another member of the sophomore class coming off a strong freshman campaign is midfielder Nick Holtrop (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS). Holtrop moved into the starting lineup midway through the 2009 season and finished the year with one goal and six assists (8 points).
On defense, Calvin returns a pair of All-MIAA second team selections in senior Lucas Wilgenberg (Visalia, CA/Central Valley Christian HS) and sophomore Dan Nederhoed (Kentwood, MI/East Kentwood HS). A three-year starter on the Calvin backline, Wilgenberg joined Kmetz on the Final Four All-Tournament team last December. He was also credited with three goals, one assist and seven points during the season. Nederhoed appeared and started in 25 games as a freshman. Nederhoed also picked up a pair of assists. Also returning on defense are senior Kyle Billin (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS) and junior Justin Ahearne (Hudsonville, MI/Hudsonville HS). Billin was a starter in nine games last fall and picked up a goal and two assists. His lone goal came in an NCAA III Tournament victory over Carnegie Mellon. Ahearne had two goals, one assist and five points. One of his goals came in a 2-1 early season victory over rival Wheaton (IL).
Other returning letterwinners in the field include junior back Tyler Vegter (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian HS), junior midfielder Brad Wassink (Long Beach, CA/Valley Christian HS) and sophomore midfielder Trevor Bushhouse (Wheaton, IL/Wheaton North HS). Vegter has been a strong presence for the Knights in a reserve role throughout his career. He has also sparkled in the classroom, landing on the MIAA Academic Honor Roll Twice. Wassink is also a two-time member of the MIAA Academic Honor Roll and is looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2009 campaign. Another player looking to bounce back from an injury-filled campaign that forced him to sit out the 2009 season is fifth-year senior midfielder Blake VanWylen (Grand Rapids, MI/Grand Rapids Christian HS).
In goal, the Knights feature three returning letterwinners in senior Ryan Bratt (Silver Spring, MD/Washington Christian Academy) and sophomore Michael Dolan (Casco, MI/Marine City HS). Bratt was a late-season hero last fall, receiving his first career start in the regular season finale with Hope with the MIAA Championship hanging in the balance and responding with a shutout performance. He followed by winning shootouts against Wartburg and Transylvania in the NCAA III Tournament, making several big saves in both shootout wins. Bratt finished the year with a 4-1-2 record that included three shutout victories. He also picked up 26 saves and recorded a 0.59 goals-against-average. Dolan battled through injuries as well but managed to appear in five games and start in three while fashioning a 3-1-0 record.
According to Hughes, Calvin will also feature a strong recruiting class that could produce a number of individuals that could challenge for playing time.
Calvin will open its season at home on September 3 when it hosts Milwaukee School of Engineering in a first round game of the Cal Bergsma Memorial Tournament. Calvin will face Goshen College the following afternoon at home on the second day of the tournament. Other non-conference games include road contests at Wheaton (IL), Carthage (WI), North Central (IL) and Hiram (OH).
Calvin will open its MIAA schedule on September 22 when it hosts Adrian at 4 p.m.
“The only game we’re focusing on right now is our game with Milwaukee School of Engineering,” said Hughes. “They will bring in a talented team that is very well coached. Our full attention will be on that game. After that, we’ll just take everything one game at a time.”