2013 Calvin Men’s Soccer Preview
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
By Jacob Kuyvenhoven
The Calvin College Men’s soccer team enters the 2013 season having established very high standards for success. The team has won six consecutive regular season MIAA titles and also made the NCAA tournament six years in a row. There proved to be no drop-off during the 2012 season under the direction of new head coach Ryan Souders, and the Knights look to build off this foundation this year. Out of the 24 players listed on the varsity roster last year, 16 return for the 2013 campaign, including an impressive 11 players who have started for the team before.
While last year was a great debut season for new coach Souders, he admits that the results were not ultimately satisfying, as Calvin was knocked out in the first round of the national tournament. “We had a lot of success last year that we are looking to build off this year,” says Souders, “but there are a lot of guys disappointed with how the season ended.” Souders is also not overlooking the tough competition Calvin will again have to face in order to come away with an MIAA title. “The road to the NCAA tournament goes through a very competitive league. Every game counts- the games with Hope are always huge, and teams like Olivet and Kalamazoo have also really come on the last few years. I also think the rest of our league has improved. There are no ‘gimme’ games in our league.” Calvin looks to focus on the MIAA season at hand, as it will be necessary to excel there in order to regain a berth in the national tournament.
The scoring attack is expected to be paced by junior Travis Vegter (Hudsonville, MI/Unity Christian), who was a first-team MIAA selection in 2012 and led all returners with 11 goals. Also expected to lead the offense are senior Zach Willis (Wyoming, MI/Unity Christian), and sophomore Taylor Pruis (Grand Rapids, MI/Grand Rapids Christian). Willis led Calvin’s team in assists and scored nine goals on his way to being named to the all-MIAA second team. Pruis collected nine goals despite coming off the bench in all but four games and taking only 31 shots all season, and was named Calvin’s best newcomer athlete at the inaugural Calvin sports banquet. Vegter will likely anchor one of the forward slots, while Willis and Pruis will be staples in an offensive role in Calvin’s midfield.
Calvin does not lack for returning success in the way of defensively-oriented players either, as they return another second-team all-MIAA selection in junior Sean Broekhuizen (Grand Rapids, MI/South Christian), as well as two more players who started nearly every game last year in junior Reed Bowden (Uxbridge, MA/Whitinsville Christian) and senior Ben Honeycutt (Grandville, MI/South Christian). Calvin notched seven shutouts last year, and these players are key to continuing that success. Against the high-powered scoring attacks Calvin will face early in the year, it will be a big advantage to have an experienced back line.
The goalkeeper position will be one to watch as Calvin looks to replace the graduated Jared Rushlau. Junior Andrew Claucherty (Sterling Heights, MI/Bishop Foley) was solid in two starts last year, and figures to take over as Calvin’s full-time goalie. “It’s his job to lose, and we expect him to do great,” says Souders. “But there’s still going to be some new guys pushing him, we don’t want anyone to get too comfortable.”
Two young players to watch with starting experience are sophomores Sam Hanover (St. Johns, MI/St. Johns), a forward, and defenseman Nick Groenewald (Oak Brook, IL/Timothy Christian). Both were quite effective last year given their somewhat limited playing time, and will be expected to step up into full-time starting roles this season. “We return a lot of pieces, but we’re losing some real solid guys, so there will be chances for some guys to step up,” said coach Souders. “Sam Hanover is a guy that we’re really expecting to step up.” Other players who started at least a game last year and return for the 2013 campaign are junior Adrien Mary (Margate, England/Rain Forest International School) and sophomore Jon Filippini (Holland, MI/Holland Christian).
In addition, Calvin will be adding a strong recruiting class to its repertoire that includes players from all over the country. Souders believes the team will be led by the more experienced players, but he doesn’t deny that some of the incoming players “may be ready to make some immediate contributions.”
The schedule is demanding as Calvin will face 2011 national champion Ohio Wesleyan and always tough Kenyon on August 30 and 31 respectively. Early non-conference dates with regional powers Loras and North Park also loom. The MIAA schedule begins for Calvin with none other than rival Hope on September 17 when the Knights host the Flying Dutchmen at 4 p.m. at Zuidema Field.
“Our schedule is demanding and our opening stretch in particular is a real gauntlet,” said Souders. “If we can survive our first three weeks and continue to push forward, I think we’ll be alright. We just have to take it one game at a time and not look forward too far down the road or we will get ourselves in trouble.”