Long Wait Over For Calvin - Men’s Soccer Defeats Wheaton
Friday, September 11, 2009
By Calvin Sports Information Student Assistant Derek Neice
On the day that is remembered for those who gave their lives in the terrorist attacks of 2001, the Calvin Men’s soccer team rose to the challenge and defeated Wheaton College by a tight score of 2-1.
It was the first time that Calvin had registered a win against the Thunder since 1992, stopping the 12-0-1 streak that Wheaton had amassed in that span of time. Sophomore Justin Ahearne (Hudsonville, MI) headed in an early goal to give the Knights the lead, and junior Dan Kmetz (Strongsville, OH) added a goal with a wind-guided corner kick later in the first half. Wheaton would close the deficit to 2-1 shortly before halftime off of a vicious strike by sophomore Drew Golz (River Forest, ILL), but a scoreless second half saw the Knights prevail.
Coach Chris Hughes knew he had a special squad of guys this season, and he wasted no time in expressing that when asked about the win Friday.
“I didn’t put much focus on it with them, I knew we had a special group of guys this year and we showed it today. We are technically and tactically sound, and we have good size, which showed on the two goals coming from corner kicks. In the end, both teams battled, but we managed to find the net one more time than they did.”
Along with the great things that he said about his team’s play, Hughes also acknowledged that there are always things that can be improved upon.
“We need to work on consistent pressure to the ball and some on transitions from offense to defense. We’re always working on communication too. But this is just the third game in, and so far we are coming along nicely.”
Led by senior Greg Snapper (Madison, WI), the reigning MIAA Most Valuable Player from a year ago, the Knights backfield played stout defense throughout the match with only the one hiccup. That goal, which was more just a fantastic offensive play rather than poor defense, was one of few chances that the Thunder had on goal. Snapper personally made several great defensive stops that made it extremely hard for the Thunder to do anything on the attack, and he was very proud of the way his fellow defensemen played in preserving the victory for the Knights.
“It’s so great to win today because of how frustrating it’s been going there to play them in past years. We’ve got a new system and some great new players and we just mesh so well as a team. We all wanted it and we went full steam today; it feels really good to pull this one out. The team unity is really showing.”
Snapper’s fellow on-field leader and fifth year senior Michael Holwerda (Grand Rapids, MI) expressed similar sentiments when asked about the magnitude of defeating Wheaton for the first time in 17 years.
“It’s great being here with these guys again, there’s a lot of experience on the team and the relationships we’ve developed on and off the field definitely show through in our game-play, especially today. We had good intensity and good pressure, and we came away with the win.”
The Knights incorporated some freshmen into the game too, something that Hughes is a big believer of. “We put them in the water and see how they swim. I’m definitely pleased so far, they can compete with the other sophomore’s juniors and seniors on the team. They add to the mix.”
In the first half of play, the Knights scored both goals in the first fifteen minutes, a lead that they would not relinquish. The first goal came from a corner kick, where senior forward Alex McKenzie (Lindenhurst, ILL) headed the driven pass back across the goal to Ahearne, who headed it into the side net. Kmetz’s second corner kick resulted in a goal a little later when the wind drove the ball straight into the goal, something that you rarely see in this level of competition.
Wheaton’s Drew Golz slammed home the Thunder’s only score of the match when fellow teammate Hudson Stern (Caledonia, ILL) saved the ball from going out of bounds with a nice cross to the top of the box. Golz settled and struck the ball straight past sophomore goalie Jared Rushlau (Grandville, MI).
The second half saw a battle in the middle of the field with chances to score on both sides, but neither team could find the net. In the final minutes, Wheaton was given two corner kicks that would ultimately be the only chances they had left. The first was headed clear by Snapper, and the second, headed up by Holwerda, ended up in the safety of keeper Rushlau’s arms. The Knights maintained possession in the final few minutes then-after and preserved Calvin’s first victory over Wheaton in nearly two decades. When it comes down to it, soccer is simply a game of possession, and the Knights used just that to come out on top.