Loras makes first national championship appearance in school history
The biggest upset from the 2015 Division III tournament at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Mo., was saved for last Friday night as first-ranked Calvin College lost 1-0 to Loras College. A goal from midfielder Jonah Jacke in the 39th minute proved to be enough to win the game.
“Were pleased,” Loras coach Dan Rothert said. “We’ve been in this situation a lot in the last decade. We’re pleased to be in a situation where we get to compete for the national championship tomorrow.”
With the win, Loras moved on its first national title game in school history. Previously, Loras had been to the semifinal three times but lost each time.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these guys,” Rothert said. “We have guys who haven’t had the chance to play in a national championship game. They have an opportunity here to play for that. They’re going to dig deep and it’s going to be an exciting game.”
Though both teams garnered first-round byes due to their excellence in the regular season and conference tournament play, 17-4-1 Loras came into the tournament ranked at no. 11 in the nation while undefeated Calvin entered the tournament with the top ranking in the nation.
Loras took the lead in the 39th minute when junior midfielder Jonah Jacke dribbled into the box and sent a shot into the top left corner of the goal past Calvin goalkeeper Niko Giantsopoulos. The goal was only the sixth Calvin has conceded this season.
Jacke was quick to respond when asked how it felt to score his first goal of the season.
“Surreal, absolutely surreal,” Jacke said. “I was telling the guys all day that I was going to score. It’s big for me and big for the program.”
Calvin is first in Division III in goals against average, only giving up .20 goals per game. After Jacke’s goal in the first half, Calvin had trailed in a game for only the second time this season.
After the goal, Loras was able to defend strong to limit shots from Calvin. The game ended with Calvin recording 8 shots to Loras’ 10.
“They pride themselves in [getting shutouts,]” Rothert said. “They want shutouts, that’s what they do. That’s their goal every game. If we get a shutout, we can’t lose. It’s a team defensive effort.”
Rothert said his team’s journey this far into the tournament is a product of dedication to playing a style of soccer that pressures the other team into giving up that ball in any space on the field. It was been that dedication that has brought Loras this far.
“We commit to our system,” Rothert said. “We go forward and we put pressure on other teams. When we create opportunities deep in our attacking third were going to have good opportunities to score.”
For Calvin, however, the plan was not to stop that system. Calvin coach Ryan Souders said his team stuck to its own gameplan as well.
“We created chances,” Souders said. “I thought we were on the ball a good amount. We weren’t able to break them down at the end in the back. I don’t think we were completely outclassed, I didn’t think we looked lost out there.”
In the final seconds of the match, Calvin’s Taylor Pruis found perhaps Calvin’s best chance at scoring when he rose ahead of a defender so send a volley on goal but into the arms of Loras goalkeeper Jacob Peterson.
“I’m proud of how we played,” Pruis said. “We all gave it our all and at the end of the day just weren’t able to put it all together.”