Women’s Soccer Captures MIAA Title With 3-0 Win Over Alma in MIAA Tourney Finals
Saturday, November 08, 2008
By Chaz Amidon
GRAND RAPIDS – Bouncing back from a 2007 MIAA Tournament that ended on a sour note, the No. 4 Knights sealed their fourth consecutive league title with a 3-0 win over Alma in Saturday’s championship bout.
Calvin, a team that has allowed only one goal in conference play this season, blanked the visiting Scots for the second time this fall en route to earning an automatic bid for next week’s NCAA-III Tournament, which begins next Thursday, Nov. 13.
“They play hard, they play consistently, they play with a desire, a passion, to be excellent in what they do,” said women’s soccer coach Mark Recker of his championship squad. “When you have that as a coach, you can’t beat it.”
The Knights (17-2-1) have now claimed four straight league crowns – a dynastic streak that began in 2005 when Calvin and Hope each went 15-1 during the regular season to share the title.
Since then, the double-round robin format has been tossed aside in favor of a single-round robin regular season followed by a single elimination tournament. Calvin defeated Hope in the 2006 tournament final and lost to Albion in a shootout in last year’s title tilt, though the Knights recorded enough points to remain ahead of the Britons in the final standings.
“It really is a challenge to have consistency over a number of years,” said Recker. “I think every one is special, especially when you have a group of players who, in their own way, decided that they wanted to be the best defenders in the league.”
After a scoreless first half, Calvin was ignited by Carly Prins (Hudsonville/Unity Christian HS) just six minutes following the break, as the sophomore midfielder toe-punched a drop pass from Emily Ottenhoff (Palos Heights, IL/Chicago Christian HS) that rocketed past Alma goalkeeper Katie Weicksel.
Senior Elizabeth Ribbens (Tinley Park, IL/Victor J. Andrew HS), who is the MIAA leader in total points in conference play, (27), notched her 12th goal of the season in the 59th minute, depositing a cross-field shot into the corner of the Scots’ net after being sprung on a breakaway opportunity.
“I think we just have a good rhythm going together,” said Ribbens. “We really had to work up toward this point, but we really understand each other and where we’re going to be – just working more as a unit than as individuals.”
Sophomore Elaine Schnabel (Chesterton, IN/Chesterton HS) registered her third goal of the tournament with under ten minutes left in regulation, firing in a low liner that was sent from Prins near the left corner of Alma’s box.
Calvin outscored its league opponents 13-0 throughout the tournament – including 6-0 and 4-0 wins against Saint Mary’s and Adrian, respectively – and 27-1 during the eight-game regular season.
The Knights’ burgeoning offense has averaged 4.0 goals-per-game over their past six contests, paling a 2.5 goals-per-game average in their first six of the 2008 season.
“All year long we’ve generated a large degree of opportunities,” said Recker. “We’ve been talking about execution lately. When we’ve had more opportunities in front of the goal, we’ve been able to put them away better.”
Winners of 13 straight, Calvin will advance to the NCAA-III Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. The Knights edged Capital University – a 5-3 shootout victory in Springfield, Ohio – in the first round of the 2007 tourney before bowing out to Wittenberg in a shootout loss, 3-1, in the second round.
An unblemished conference record of 11-0-0 and a strong non-conference schedule could bode well for the Knights when the national bracket is drawn up early next week.
Calvin finished 0-2-1 against ranked opponents this year, though the two losses were each decided by one goal as the Knights dropped a 3-2 contest against No. 8 Washington (St. Louis) and a 2-1 double overtime thriller to No. 22 Wheaton, the three-time defending national champion.
The Knights will have at least five days until the start of the NCAA-III Tournament.
“The team is so great to be around,” said Prins, who netted her seventh goal of the year on Saturday. “We all want the same thing. We want to go hard and do the best in every game.”