Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy of Calvin Athletics

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. - For the second time in four years, the Calvin women's soccer team is headed to the national quarterfinals. The Knights defeated host Augustana 2-1 Friday night

Round of 16 NCAA III Tournament game. Calvin (16-4-1) will face Washington University (MO) which advanced to Saturday's quarterfinal by winning a penalty kick shootout against Wheaton after the game finished in a 0-0 tie. Saturday's national quarterfinal game will begin at 7:00 p.m. (EST) at Augustana with the winner advancing to the NCAA III Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, December 4 & 5.

Saturday's quarterfinal game will feature the second meeting of the year between Calvin and Washington University with the Bears picking up a 1-0 win at Calvin in mid-September.

After losing in the first round of the MIAA tournament and failing to secure an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament, all seemed lost for the Knights. Calvin's group of seniors which had visited the elite eight in their freshman year saw their season come to a crashing halt. Their tournament dreams rapidly turned to nightmares.

But the best part of a nightmare is waking up. After a week void of practice and filled with frustration, the Knights' got their wake up call. The wake-up call came in the form of a dream tournament bid, a first round draw on their home turf.

But a wake-up call is pointless if unanswered. Calvin answered, in the biggest way. After taking shutting out their first and second round opponents by a collective score of 5-0, Calvin found itself in the sweet sixteen. Their opponent, Augustana, a one-seed, the fifth ranked team in the country, on its home turf.

After going down 1-0 in the 28th minute, Calvin responded with the very thing that had gotten them this far: set pieces.

In the 35th minute, junior Lauren Heyboer (Portage/Kalamazoo Christian HS) took her corner kick success to the right wing in the form of a set piece. She found her favorite target, junior Carly Prins (Hudsonville/Unity Christian HS), who directed a header towards the far post and equalized the score at 1-1.

From this point on, Calvin took total control of the game, controlling possession and creating far more chances than Augustana. With continued pressure, the Knights took a 2-1 off another set piece. In the 64th minute, junior Mindy Capisciolto (Hudsonville/Unity Christian HS) played a short corner kick to junior Elaine Schnabel (Chesterton, IN/Chesterton HS), who hit the far post nylon an a shot from the 18 on the left wing.

With a 2-1 lead, Calvin sealed a 2-1 victory with some outstanding play from the back line. The Knight's defense shut down the Augustana attack and completed a 2-1 victory.

"I knew if we could apply a high degree of pressure we would be able to stay in the game," said Coach Mark Recker. The victory only furthered the dream tournament run for the Knights.

"[Losing in the MIAA tournament] was a huge wake up call. We are playing with so much more energy, joy, and overall motivation," said senior goalkeeper Kayla Sulzer. Sulzer is among the senior class who reached the elite eight in their freshmen year.

"It feels great to be back [in the elite eight]. It's a huge blessing," she said.

Goal scorer Elaine Schnabel echoed that sentiment, "We feel blessed that we got an invitation to play in this NCAA tournament and we want to celebrate that gift as long as God allows us to do so."