Calvin men's soccer season preview
The Calvin College men’s soccer team looks to start a new season with new leadership. A year ago, the Knights were champions of the MIAA for a record fifth year in a row, and advanced all the way to the national finals. Calvin finished with a record of 19-6-2.
The upcoming season, however, is not the only new thing upon the Calvin’s men’s soccer program. Ryan Souders will take the reins for his first year as the Knights’ head coach. He was appointed shortly after Chris Hughes, who coached Calvin for ten years, left to become the head coach of nearby Davenport University.
“I am ecstatic to be a part of Calvin College, as an institution, as well as its men’s soccer program specifically,” said Souders. “The Calvin men’s soccer program has a long standing tradition of on the field excellence, highlighted most recently by two national runners up finishes. I am really looking forward to being involved and engaged with alums, families, and the community in order to both maintain the tradition and continue to produce results on the field.”
The team Souders takes over has one thing: experience in big games. The senior class is one of the most successful in school history, having been to two national championship games and an NCAA III Elite Eight appearance.
“I couldn’t be more excited for this year’s senior class,” Souders said. “The seniors are incredibly committed to this program, and I’m sure I’ll learn from this group of seniors as much as they learn from me.”
The senior class Souders speaks of contains seven student-athletes. Trevor Bushhouse (Wheaton, IL/Wheaton North HS) scored the game-winning goal in double overtime sending the Knights to the NCAA III Final Four a year ago. Nick Holtrop (Hudsonville/Unity Christian HS) has started the previous three years at the center midfield position. Chris Nance (Washington/Warren De LaSalle HS) won the MIAA player of the week last year. Joe Broekhuizen (Grand Rapids/South Christian HS) has taken big free kicks for the Knights in the past. Dan Nederhood (Kentwood/East Kentwood HS) has anchored the Knights back line for the past three seasons. Mike Sanderson (Grand Rapids/Grand Rapids Christian HS) and Kyle Vela (Grand Rapids/Forest Hills Northern HS) have played key roles off the bench for Calvin.
The junior class contains only three student-athletes, but the expectation does not change.
“All of the juniors have played varsity minutes. We need them to play like seniors.” Souders explained.
Zach Willis (Hudsonville/Unity Christian HS) led the MIAA in goals scored with 14 and points with 38 a year ago. He will play a key role in the Knights attack this upcoming year. Ben Honeycutt (Grandville/South Christian HS) saw significant minutes in the midfield. Junior Oyesile Segun (Brooklyn, NY/Martin Van Buren HS) also saw time in midfield last fall and could challenge for playing time this year.
The sophomore class, three in number, is smaller as well, yet played a huge role in the Knights advancing to the finals last year. Travis Vegter (Hudsonville/Unity Christian HS) was named primetime performer by Collegesoccer360.com for his performance in the final four a year ago. Sean Broekhuizen (Grand Rapids/South Christian HS) and Reed Bowden (Uxbridge, MA/Whitinsville Christian HS) helped the Knights’ back row during the playoff run.
“All three of these young men have the chance to become great players in their time here at Calvin.” Souders said. “They will be asked to play significant roles for us this year.”
Calvin will have 29 incoming freshmen trying out for the program this fall.
“I did not have much time to recruit this year,” said Souders. “At the time of my hire here, most student-athletes had already made up their minds. Because of this, we are going to need these incoming freshmen as well as players on last year’s B’ Team to step up and contribute.”
The Knights will start the season ranked 13th in the country as per a poll released by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. They will also start on the road traveling to Illinois Wesleyan to face the host Titans as well as Augustana (IL). The remaining non-conference schedule for the Knights is highlighted by a date with nationally ranked Dominican, Ill. (ranked 17th) and a trip to Joe Bean Field in Wheaton, Illinois, to face the Wheaton Thunder. This carries special significance for Ryan Souders, who played for legendary coach Joe Bean and was the starting goalie on Wheaton’s last team to reach the NCAA III Final Four.
“I’m going to feel like I’m going back home,” Souders chuckled. “We have three CCIW (Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) opponents, one of which is my alma mater. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about playing Wheaton. It will provide us with an NCAA tournament-like atmosphere early in the year.
The MIAA conference schedule is highlighted by two matchups with rival Hope College, who is ranked 20th in the preseason poll.
“The MIAA conference as a whole is on the rise. We have to show up on a daily basis. Anyone can beat anyone.”
As for the rivalry with Hope, Souders realizes the annual matchups are special. “I’m really looking forward to the Calvin-Hope rivalry,” said Souders. “We have great respect for the Hope men’s soccer program and the rivalry as a whole. It’s a rivalry that both schools look forward to with eager anticipation and I am excited to be a part of it for the first time this year.”
The 2012 version of Calvin College men’s soccer will be different in several ways from year’s past, but as for head coach Ryan Souders, he puts the season in perspective.
“Ultimately our goals are to be a committed group of young men, first and foremost to the Lord, additionally committed to each other, committed to our academics, and maintaining the level of on the field success that this program has come to know.”