After what was described as a “disappointing” season in 2016, the Hope College men’s soccer team looked to start this year’s season strong last weekend at the Cal Bergsma Memorial Tournament, a round- robin event which Hope co-hosts annually with Calvin College.
Hope faced off against Lake Forest on Friday night, claiming a 1-0 victory in their home opener. Sam Albritten (’19) scored early for Hope, driving in the solo goal of the game unassisted at the 8:20 mark. Hope played an aggressive game overall, with sixteen shots on goal, including four from Jordan Hooker (’19). Goalies Stephen Wilbur (’20) and Blair McCormick (’20) played 45 minutes apiece and each had three saves for the Dutchmen.
On Saturday night, the Dutchmen took on Ohio Wesleyan at Van Andel Stadium, losing 2-1 in an evenly-matched and fast-paced competition. Christian Dault (’19) had the lone goal for Hope late in the game, scoring unassisted from 25-yards out at the 62:34 mark. The Dutchmen saw a slower offensive game against Lake Forest’s tough defense, with only seven shots on goal. McCormick had six saves in the second half to keep the score close.
Overall, the Dutchmen had a tough showing against some very talented competition. It is clear that last year’s youthful team, which started almost all freshman, has matured. Head coach Steven Smith noted during the fall sports preview that, while the team struggled last year, they controlled time of possession by a 70-30 margin in nearly every game.
Among Coach Smith’s highest-priority goals was to increase the dynamism of the offense, turning these possessions into points. After this weekend’s games, there is no question that the Dutchmen have dialed up their offensive intensity with several high- quality shots on goal in both games.
Dutchman midfielder Sam Mason (’19) said to The Anchor, “I think that, as a team, we took a huge step forward. Our defensive shape looks great and it acts as a good base to move forward and create attacking, dangerous play.”
Hope College’s MIAA rival, Calvin, won top honors at the Bergsma Memorial Tournament after Hope’s loss to Ohio Wesleyan. Hope did not meet Calvin, the MIAA Pre-Season Coach’s Poll favorite, this weekend, but the two teams are in position for a few highly competitive rivalry games during conference play.
The Dutchmen plan to build on this strong start as they head out on the road at Carthage College on Friday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m. and then again at St. Norbert (Kenosha, WI), on Saturday, Sept. 9.
The Dutchmen will return home to Van Andel Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. to open MIAA conference play against Coach’s Poll- ranked #4 Kalamazoo.