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Goal (finally) accomplished

Sunday, January 01, 2012

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TylerIn the 61st minute of a Sept. 16 men’s soccer game against Wheaton, with Calvin on top 1-0, freshman Travis Vegter (left) won the ball at midfield, dribbled through a crowd and delivered a pass to the top of the box from the right flank. There waiting for it was his older brother. Without hesitation, Tyler (pictured below) buried a shot to give the Knights what would stand as the game-winning goal. Tyler was credited with the goal, and Travis the assist. After the goal and its ensuing celebration, the brothers trotted back to midfield together.

“That’s how you finish those,” said Tyler with a teasing, post-goal smile fresh on his face. He didn’t have to say any more.

“I knew what he was talking about right away,” said Travis.

Four years ago, while playing for Hudsonville (Mich.) Unity Christian, the roles were reversed. With a 1-0 lead in the 2007 state championship game, Tyler slotted a ball to Travis at the top of the 18. Travis took a touch and played a shot off-target. The Crusaders went on to defeat Dexter by a score of 2-1, Travis went goal-less, and Ty went without an assist. The celebration had to wait.

Athletics, especially soccer, have been integral to the brothers’ relationship from an early age. The two first played on a team—coached by their dad, Elroy Vegter— when Tyler was six and Travis was four. Neither brother can remember a time without a net or a ball in the backyard, leading to countless backyard games.

“It was always a competition growing up,”said Tyler. In fact, soccer was included in their weekly list of chores.

“We would have to mow the lawn, do the laundry and get 100 shots in,” said Travis, noting that his older brother rarely allowed him to miss a chance to practice. Tyler, a soft-spoken born leader according to his younger brother, admits to it.

TylerLike an older brother, I was probably too hard on him growing up,” he said, fully aware of the leadership role. “On and off the field, I tried to make the right decisions. I had extra incentive because I had younger brothers like Trav who were watching what I did.” True to his brother’s designation, Travis calls Tyler his “biggest role model.”

“I’m lucky to have somebody I can look up to like him,” he said. “I can make my decisions based on him.”

Included in those decisions was Travis’ choice to come to Calvin. Travis received attention from several larger schools, including the University of Michigan, but, because of its priorities on academics and individual student-athletes, ultimately decided to go to Calvin and follow in the footsteps of not only Tyler, but both of his parents.

“It’s so cool to be able to play with Ty again. I can’t imagine not coming to Calvin now,” said Travis. Tyler, along with his parents, shares the excitement at being able to play with his brother.

“I’m happy he decided to come here. It’s been great playing with him. And my parents love it,” Tyler said, and was quick to praise Travis’ talents as a player. “He can make passes a lot of other players can’t. He has really good ball control and great vision.”

Both brothers, who combined for 30 points this season, agree that playing on the same team heightens their collegiate soccer experience.

“Playing together makes the good things even better and the bad things even worse,” said Tyler, who has tallied five goals and four assists for the Knights in his senior campaign.

“If I ever get an assist from him or he does from me it’s special to experience that with your brother,” said Travis.

Together, they propelled the Knights on another lengthy NCAA tournament run. Calvin concluded the regular season as MIAA champions with a 19-6-2 record. The Knights earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and advanced to the NCAA III Championship game before losing to Ohio Wesleyan 2-1. At the NCAA III Final Four, Travis scored three goals and was named to the All-Tournament team.

The Vegter brothers’ claim a lasting relationship, one profoundly shaped by the game of soccer. The victories, losses, goals, and assists survive as testaments to a brotherhood just as strong off the field as it is on. Because of that, they can playfully recall even the goals that didn’t happen.

“I still think he should have scored that goal,” said Tyler, with the same teasing smile.

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