Women’s Soccer Defeats Wittenberg 1-0 to Advance to NCAA III Tournament Round of 16
Saturday, November 14, 2009
(written by sports information student assistant Derek Neice)
GRAND RAPIDS, MI—Victory can sometimes be oh so sweet, which was exactly the case for the Knights of Calvin College Saturday as it eliminated the Wittenberg Tigers in a close 1-0 match, moving on to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2006.
With a large crowd in attendance the two teams squared off knowing that should they lose, the season would be over, and with picture perfect weather for a soccer game on Calvin’s campus, the Knights were the ones who came out on top.
Much like in yesterday’s match against Washington and Jefferson, Calvin started the game searching for a hole through which it could take some kind of advantage, and Wittenberg looked to do the same. Neither team showed much weakness throughout the first half though as the game would remain scoreless with both defenses looking especially strong. But, and just like yesterday’s first round match, Calvin was the first to jump out to a lead.
With four minutes left in the first half, Calvin forced a corner kick on the Tiger’s half, and Lauren Heyboer chipped in her third assist in two games from corner kicks, sending in a great ball that was redirected into the goal by senior midfielder Emily Ottenhoff. The goal, Ottenhoff’s seventh of the year, gave Calvin the lead and showed exactly why Ottenhoff was named the MIAA’s Most Valuable Player for the 2009 season.
“I think Em is by far one of the smartest soccer IQ players I have ever coached,” Recker said of his senior leader. “She sees what’s happening on the field, and she keeps us calm at times when we just need to slow down.”
“Her career here has been special for us,” Recker continued, “and her four years here have always given some measure of value in terms of her overall soccer skills and what she has meant to our team.”
The goal, coming directly off of a corner kick, would be Calvin’s fourth goal of its last five that have resulted from corner kick set pieces. Calvin certainly has dominated in the air in this tournament so far. And at 1-0, Calvin went into the halftime break with the lead, something they definitely were hoping for coming into this game.
The seniors on Calvin’s squad, playing in their final seasons as Knights, knew that a lead such as this is especially vital to getting access to the next round of the tournament. Calvin hasn’t made it beyond the second round of play in the NCAA Tournament since 2006, back when these current seniors were freshmen.
“We’re really pumped,” Ottenhoff said after the game, “we kept talking about how not every team gets a second chance like we did, and yesterday and today we came out and got it done and so we’re really excited about where we’re at right now.”
“For the seniors, we got to the elite eight our freshmen year which was a great way to start off our careers,” Ottenhoff said of how the team’s senior members are looking at this final tournament, “and not having been back since then we are definitely looking to get back to that level.”
Halftime stats showed both teams with three shots on goal, with Ottenhoff’s header the lone success, but Calvin controlled the pace of the game throughout much of the half. That didn’t slow down a bit once the second frame began.
In the second half the defenses of both teams again took over, not giving anything over to the other team in terms of scoring opportunity. The first real chance for the Knights came midway through the half as Calvin took advantage of a Wittenberg free kick for a breakaway drive by junior back Kellie Honderd. Honderd received a pass at midfield with no one in front of her and took off towards Wittenberg’s goal, but a bad touch resulted in Honderd losing a lot of scoring angle and her shot was easily scooped up by the Tiger goalkeeper.
As time kept on rolling down emotions began to run a little high on both sides as Calvin tried to maintain the lead and Wittenberg desperately tried to set something up on offense in the hopes of getting an equalizer.
In the last few minutes of the game the Tigers pushed Calvin’s half as best they could and even had a dangerous chance on goal in the final seconds, with a loose ball scramble occurring in the Knights’ box. Calvin keeper Kayla Sulzer was swift to the ball though and by collecting it she essentially cemented the victory for the Knights as soon after the whistle sounded and Calvin was on to the next round.
“Our team getting the invite was just a real refreshing acceptance,” Recker said, still grateful for his team’s chance to make noise in this final tournament, “and we’re just going to take each game we’re offered as a gift, move on, continue practicing, and represent the MIAA.”
One interesting note for Saturday’s game was that Calvin saw some playing time from an unexpected player who came back from what was thought to be a season ending injury. Senior forward Natalie Veurink played for part of the match after injuring her hip, and her return to the field was a breath of fresh air to a Knights’ offense that has lacked speed at that position.
“It was great to be back on the field and able to contribute for my team,” Veurink said afterwards, “and it is wonderful to be back in the sweet sixteen and we’re ready to hit the road.”
The Knights finished the match ahead of Wittenberg 8-6 in the shot column, a much closer total than they have been used to for many of their games this season. Sulzer finished with three saves, getting her second straight shutout, and Calvin now has shut out its opponents in each of the first two rounds of the tournament.
And with Saturday’s win, the Knights now have tasted the sweetness of victory as they move on to their first Sweet 16 since 2006. With a season reborn from the ashes, look for the Knights to remain invigorated with new life in this 2009 NCAA Tournament.