The Calvin College Knights are a formidable soccer team. Under head coach Ryan Souders, the team is a combined 185-25-10 and has an in-conference record of 105-4-2.
Souders was first hired in 2012, when he went 16-4-1 and 12-1-1 in MIAA play, finishing in the NCAA playoffs. It would serve as a tone setter for Souders’ tenure at Calvin given that Calvin has finished first in MIAA play for ten consecutive seasons since 2012. Calvin has boasted numerous NCAA tournament runs, including a finals run in 2016.
As of Sept. 27, Calvin was ranked 11th in the DIII rankings. So, when Calvin called Holy Cross College men’s head soccer coach Omar Gallo looking for a potential match, it would be understandable if Gallo declined. Instead, he eagerly took on the challenge.
“When they called us looking for a game, we could have turned it down… We looked at this game we had on the schedule as an opportunity that if we were on a winning streak, can we continue to play well and if we were on a losing streak, potentially a game where we can bounce back,” Gallo said.
The game started fairly even, with the Saints playing in the wind. Calvin, however, gained an advantage because of its disciplined passing attack and scored in the 16th minute. The goal came off a corner kick, which crossed to the far side of the field, centered at the top of the 18. Senior midfielder Chris Schau, who received the kick, put the ball up in the air and crossed it to the far side once again, where senior defender Colin Iverson scored a header.
The goal was allowed by freshman goalie Isaias Rubio, who got the start over sophomore Claudio Fuentealba. Benching Fuentealba was a tactical decision, according to Gallo.
“We felt like it was a game where we had to give some guys a rest, and you never know when your other goalkeeper is going to get called upon,” he said.
Rubio struggled to communicate with the backline which helped Calvin to generate some of its chances. It is something he will need to continue to work on in the future, as Gallo plans to continue to play Rubio.
“[You] just got to understand regardless of if you are a freshman, we want you speaking up as that last line of defense there,” Gallo said.
The second Calvin chance came off a throw-in late in the 26th minute, with junior midfielder Zach Flowerday receiving a through ball from freshman midfielder Jacob Ryu.
Holy Cross was not without its opportunities, however, as in the 37th minute, Holy Cross earned a corner that was kicked short. The ball was then crossed, with Calvin clearing it out of the 18, where it fell to freshman forward Gabe Nyenka, who just missed on a bending shot.
Just a few minutes later, in the 42nd minute, Calvin scored off a corner, with freshman TJ McVey crossing the ball to Aguma Muhumuza, who used his head to guide the ball to the back of the net.
With Holy Cross trailing 0-3, Claudio Fuentealba would come into the net for Holy Cross. Fuentealba would earn the clean sheet with two shots and two saves.
On a routine goal kick in the 55th minute, Calvin sophomore goalkeeper Kaelen Matascastillo passed the ball forward to Muhumuza. The defender lazily caught the pass, and Axel Valenzuela would steal the ball, poking it forward where he beat Matascastillo one-on-one.
The goal would make it 3-1, which would be the final score for the Saints.
While the loss snaps the three-game win streak the Saints were riding, the loss should not negatively impact the team’s mentality when they resume conference play,
“What we said to the guys: there is nothing to be disappointed about… We made three mental errors, and overall we played very well… if anything, it is going to continue to give us confidence,” Gallo said.
The loss drops the Saints to an overall record of 5-4-1, but their conference record of 2-1-1 will remain the same.
The Saints will resume action Saturday when they face off against St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST.
Contact Tom Zwiller at firstname.lastname@example.org