Dec. 5, 2009

Calvin Slips By Dominican, 1-0

By Gaylon Krizak
Special to

SAN ANTONIO ––  Those who hesitate truly are lost. Ask the Williams Ephs.

Messiah forward Trevor Lee took a pass from Sam Woodworth in the 33rd minute and beat Williams goalie Andrew Graham with a move about 2 yards from the goal line, setting up an uncontested shot while the Ephs were lobbying for an offside call.

The play symbolized the first half, in which Williams had more opportunities but Messiah took better advantage. And in a physical, action-filled semifinal in the NCAA Division III Men’s Soccer Championships, the lead was one the defending-champion Falcons did not relinquish, not even during a pressure-packed final nine minutes.

“I thought we were fortunate to go into halftime with a 1-0 lead,” said first-year Messiah coach Brad McCarty after the 2-1 victory sent the Falcons into the final for the seventh time in 10 years. “I don’t think the first half showed that. We definitely had some scoring opportunities, but I thought they carried the play in the first half.

“We’ve consistently done better in the second half than the first half. I think anytime a team is unable to maintain the level of pressure that they were able to bring in the first half, it allows us to possess, switch fields, get it wide. And our wing play was good.”

Derek Black added a goal with 11:17 remaining for Messiah (23-1), which in its bid for a seventh national championship will face first-time finalist Calvin (18-4-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Blossom Soccer Stadium. Calvin edged Dominican 1-0 in Friday’s late semifinal.

“I think it’s pretty clear: We just kept our width (on offense),” Black said. “We were just so wide and their backs didn’t stay with us, and so we were able to stretch the field a lot. So it just opened things up in the middle.”

After the speedy Ephs (17-3-2) controlled play in the first 45 minutes, Messiah came out on the attack after halftime, outshooting Williams 14-8 after the Ephs had a 10-5 first-half edge. The Falcons launched several major threats in the second half, but Graham and the Ephs’ back line turned them away until Black’s 10-yarder from Graham’s right.

But about 3½ minutes after Black’s goal, Williams’ Matt Ratajczak gained possession in a crowd in front of the Messiah goal and put the ball in low to goalie Jared Clugston’s left. That set up a final flourish by both teams, with Clugston and the Falcons’ back line holding firm against the Ephs’ pressure.

“There are halves when you dominate and you don’t score, and there are halves when you seize one moment and score, and I think Messiah might have done that,” said Williams coach Mike Russo, whose team was making its first semifinal appearance. “They took their chance and we didn’t, so it’s frustrating.”

Calvin 1, Dominican 0

In a match between two first-time semifinalists, the Dominican Stars blinked first.
Brad Heethuis blasted a loose ball past Dominican goalie Maxwell Gutbrod with 12:15 left for the game’s only goal, sending the Calvin Knights into Saturday’s final.

“I think the first 15 or 20 minutes of the game ––  big game like this, a little nervous,” Calvin coach Chris Hughes said. “Both teams were trying to feel each other out. We’re a Dutch-style possession team, and we had to find that, we had to figure it out. … You don’t just figure someone out in 10 minutes. It takes 90 minutes.”

Both teams failed to cash in the limited opportunities they had in the first 45 minutes, but Calvin clearly controlled play after halftime. A header by Luke Holtrop just missed wide for the Knights in the 51st minute. About six minutes later, Holtrop set up Heethuis from about 18 yards out, but his shot whistled high past the goal.

“Definitely in the first half, I was frustrated, and I know the other guys were too,” Heethuis said. “We were just missing, but we knew if we kept at it, we’d find that goal.”

The loss ended an unexpectedly successful season for the Stars (19-2-3), who had seven freshmen or sophomores among their starting 11.

“Being here for the first time might have been a  little overwhelming for some of the guys, but it’s a  lesson that we’ve now been through and a lesson that we’ll learn from,” Dominican coach Erick Baumann said.