Calvin clinches berth in title game
Knights bounce back from early deficit, cruise by Oneonta State
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Calvin figured one stunning moment deserved another in return during the semifinals of the Division III men’s soccer championship on Friday night.
After surrendering the lead in the sixth minute to Oneonta State, the Knights struck back three minutes later on a goal by senior Brad Heethuis, and they kept the momentum rolling en route to a 4-2 victory in Blossom Stadium.
Calvin (19-5-2) advanced to the championship match where it will face Ohio Wesleyan at 6:30 p.m. ET Saturday.
Facing a deficit is nothing new for the Knights. They came from a goal down and man down in the quarterfinals last weekend before rallying for the tying goal -- also scored by Heethuis -- in the 86th minute and eventually beating Texas-Tyler in double overtime.
Heethuis’ late heroics are happening on a consistent basis.
“He’s been Mr. November and Mr. December,” Calvin coach Chris Hughes said.
For his part, Heethuis is just enjoying the moment.
“It is fun,” Heethuis said. “The pressure ratchets up this time of year, and I have been here before. Being here two years ago and being so close gives you extra fuel.”
In 2009, Calvin lost 2-0 in the championship match to Messiah. That match also was played in San Antonio.
“Even when we arrived at the airport, our coaching staff knew what was going on this time,” Hughes said. “We knew what the routine was. Our team had big eyes and didn’t have a clue about what to expect. Messiah was here, and you could tell they had been here for ions. This time we were more relaxed.”
Against Oneonta State (18-3-2), Calvin scored four consecutive goals after falling behind.
Freshman Travis Vegter had goals in the 27th and 75th minutes, and Brad Wassink found the back of the net in 33rd minute.
Despite scoring first, Red Dragons coach Iain Byrne never felt his team never got comfortable in the opening 45 minutes.
“I thought we played nervy in the first half,” Byrne said. “Jeff Christian scored a tremendous goal. Maybe on another day that would have settled us down a little bit. We were just tentative in everything we did.”
Christian felt after he scored the initial goal of the game, he and his teammates didn’t respond in the most favorable way.
“We let off the pedal a little bit,” Christian said. “That’s when we are most vulnerable. We ran into a big Calvin team that caught us on a day we weren’t at our best, and they were.”
Oneonta State trailed 3-1 at halftime and managed to put pressure on Calvin, but its only goal in the second half came courtesy of Dan Josepher in the 85th minute. By that time, the Red Dragons were down 4-1.
Oneonta State outshot Calvin 15-10 in the match, but it didn’t translate on the scoreboard.
“At this point, you have to find the back of the net,” Hughes said. “Our boys have shown they are quite resilient in this tournament. Not only are our seniors taking us to the next level, but our young pups, our freshmen, are contributing too.”
“Our coach told us that this was nothing that we haven’t faced before this season," Vegter added. "We’ve been down before, and even if we fall behind next game, we won’t let our spirits get down.”