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Men's Sectional Previews: Central

Other Sectional Previews:  MIDWEST | ATLANTIC | NORTHEAST

By Ryan Harmanis


Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Sectional Webpage

Friday/Saturday, Nov. 17-18

Third Round - Friday

Calvin (21-0-1) at Chicago (18-2-0), 5:00 pm CT

M. Hardin-Baylor (17-2-1) vs. Emory (14-5-1), 7:30 pm CT

Quarterfinals - Saturday

Sectional Final, 7:00 pm CT

How they reached the Sweet 16

   Berth 1st Round 2nd Round
Chicago UAA AQ W6-2 Lake Forest (H) W2-0 Capital (H)
Calvin MIAA AQ W4-0 Thomas More (N) W2-0 John Carroll (A)
Emory Pool C at-large W3-1 Dickinson (N) W1-0 Lynchburg (A)
M. Hardin-Baylor ASC AQ W1-0 Willamette (N) W3-2 Trinity (Tx.) (A)

2017 Statistical Overview

   Record (Pct.) GSA : GAA (Diff.) Avg. OWP SoS vs. Top 25 Last Ten
Chicago 18-2-0 (.900) 2.79 : 0.70 (+2.09) .659 .631 1-1-0 8-2-0
Calvin 21-0-1 (.977) 3.80 : 0.36 (+3.44) .515 .551 1-0-0 9-0-1
Emory 14-5-1 (.725) 2.18 : 0.92 (+1.26) .685 .645 2-2-0 6-3-1
M. Hardin-Baylor 17-2-1 (.875) 1.87 : 0.59 (+1.28) .578 .564 1-1-0 8-1-1

Chicago Season Review

After last year’s season came to an abrupt end in the Sweet Sixteen, Chicago came into 2017 looking to make amends. Preseason No. 1 in my book, Chicago returned nine of eleven starters, including All-American Max Lopez and a surrounding group of forwards good enough to beat any defense in the country. Chicago did not disappoint to start, as the Maroons rolled to eleven straight wins, reached No. 1 in the poll, and looked like a consensus favorite for the title.

October brought Chicago down to earth. First, Emory humbled the Maroons on their own field, winning 3-0. Then North Park came in for a local derby and walked out winners too. While neither loss could be considered bad—both of those teams are still alive, after all—it did have some asking whether Chicago is mentally ready to win six straight games en route to a title.

Those concerns seemed well-founded last Saturday, as Chicago fell behind Lake Forest just eleven seconds into their first round game. Things got even worse when Lake Forest went up 2-0. But Chicago drew on its experience and, even more so, its offense, and stormed back to win 6-2. The Maroons had no such issues in the second round, where they methodically pressured and controlled Capital until Matthew Koh could strike twice. Again playing at home, Chicago will need to exorcise their 2016 demons to reach their potential and the Final Four.

Calvin Season Review

Calvin plays a strong (but short) non-conference schedule, then steamrolls the MIAA before making a deep tournament run. Sound familiar? It should. Calvin used that playbook to reach the Final Four in 2015 and in 2016 and looks to be on the same path this year. The Knights have been so consistent that I considered copying and pasting last year’s season review to see if any non-Calvin fans would notice. So what’s new this year?

For one thing, Calvin has started the same lineup for every single game—an incredible stat that shows the team’s stability and comfort playing together. For another, Calvin lacked a real “signature” win until last weekend. The Knights beat Ohio Wesleyan, Case Western, and Oberlin out of conference, but those teams all underperformed this season, and no MIAA program has come close to challenging Calvin over the last few years. So even though we all knew better than to bet against them, questions still surrounded the Knights until last weekend.

Once the NCAA tournament hit, however, a familiar script played out. Against Thomas More, the Knights ruthlessly punished mistakes and ran out 4-0 winners. Then, in a game better fit for this weekend than last, the Knights got the better of a seasoned and dangerous John Carroll team. The Blue Streaks had one of the best attacks in the country, but Vegter, Noyola, Van Ryn, and the Calvin defense held firm until the Knights could snag two late goals. Calvin once again came through on the road in a difficult environment, and the Knights will look to replicate that effort at Chicago.

Emory Season Review

Emory had high expectations entering the season. A 10-5-1 2016 campaign could have been so much more, if only the Eagles could have beaten the best teams on their schedule. Returning their top two scorers and the entire back line, Emory targeted improvement in big games in 2017. On that front, the Eagles were a mixed bag. They dominated future tournament team North Carolina Wesleyan on opening day, but then were shut out back-to-back by Washington & Lee and Randolph. Entering UAA play, the question remained whether Emory could win the big game.

That changed—as did Emory’s trajectory—on October 7. Traveling from Georgia to face the number one team in the country, Emory shell-shocked Chicago and everyone else with a 3-0 win. That win, part of an eight-game winning streak, would prove vital down the stretch. Starting a week after the Chicago win, Emory went 1-3-1 over a five-game stretch, losing to Brandeis, Oglethorpe, and Case Western Reserve. Going into the final day of the season, I thought Emory needed to beat Rochester to get an at-large bid. And so they did, coming back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to win 3-2 in overtime and secure a Pool C berth.

In the tournament, Emory used a Jason McCartney brace as part of an eighteen-minute flurry that laid waste to Dickinson. In the second round, Emory faced a Lynchburg team that had not lost since early September and was playing at home. But the experience of beating Chicago at Chicago proved useful, as the Eagles withstood Lynchburg’s first-half charge and then took the lead (and the game) through Moustafa Kattab late on. Despite Lynchburg’s best attempts, Emory’s defense was incredible down the stretch, holding the Hornets without a single shot on goal in the second half. Now, the Eagles face Mary Hardin-Baylor before a potential rematch with Chicago.

M. Hardin-Baylor Season Review

Mary Hardin-Baylor has defied expectations all season. The American Southwest Conference coaches picked the Crusaders to finish fourth in their own conference. Then the “Cru” lost their season opener 2-0 to Trinity (Texas), registering just two shots on goal. After that, UMHB were an afterthought on the national stage, never even making the Top 25. Few could have predicted then that the Cru would return to Trinity two months later on their way to the Sweet Sixteen.

In truth, the signs were there. UMHB took a preseason trip to Bermuda for a combination of service, play, and fun. That type of preseason bonding, and the additional playing time, sets teams up for success. After the opener, the Cru rattled off twelve straight wins. UMHB were not dominant, but the team continued to grind out games. The Cru seized control of the ASC with a defensive master class against Texas-Tyler, holding the conference favorites without a single shot on goal. After a letdown loss to McMurry, UMHB pitched four straight shutouts, including one in a rematch with Texas-Tyler, to claim the program’s first-ever ACS championship.

The first round matched UMHB against tournament newcomer Willamette. The Cru do not score freely, but one goal was enough for a first-ever NCAA win for Coach Brad Bankhead’s program. In the second round, UMHB turned the tables on Trinity. The Cru took the lead on a counter after a lung-bursting run and cross from Jason Goodin in the fifteenth minute—only to see Trinity score twice in the next ten. But UMHB responded immediately with a header from a free kick, then reclaimed the lead on another devastating counter. Leading 3-2 at the half, the Cru rode their luck in the second period, but Caleb Vandergriff and Co. prevented Trinity from getting clean looks at goal. UMHB will look to turn a first NCAA win into a first Final Four.

Head Coaches


Mike Babst, 5th year (2013-2017), 18-2-0 (.900)
NCAA's (4 of 5 yrs.): 10-2-0 (.833) | 2nd Sweet 16 | Sweet 16 ('16)


Ryan Sounders, 6th year (2012-2017), 86-15-7 (.829)
NCAA's (5 of 6 yrs.): 11-3-2 (.750) | 3rd Sweet 16 | Runner-up ('16), Final Four ('15)


Cory Greiner, 1st year (2017-), 14-5-1 (.725)
NCAA's (1 of 1 yr.): 2-0-0 (1.000) | 1st Sweet 16 | --

M. Hardin-Baylor

Brad Bankhead , 12th year (2006-2017), 123-70-21 (.624)
NCAA's (2 of 12 yrs.): 2-1-0 (.667) | 1st Sweet 16 | --

Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 15)

   Overall (Pct.) NCAA Appearances Record Advancement
Chicago 59-14-7 (.781) '14 '15 '16 '17 5-2-1 Sweet 16: '16, '17
Calvin 86-6-5 (.912) '14 '15 '16 '17 11-2-2 Sweet 16: '17; Final Four: '15, '16
Emory 46-20-6 (.681) '14     '17 2-1-0 Sweet 16: '17
M. Hardin-Baylor 44-20-8 (.667)       '17 2-0-0 Sweet 16: '17

Tournament Experience

The first game is loaded with experience, as Chicago and Calvin have each made the tournament the last four years. Chicago’s current roster has limited second-weekend experience and no success, while Calvin’s roster is seasoned and confident after back-to-back Final Fours. The second game, on the other hand, marks new territory for both teams. Emory’s current seniors were freshmen the last time the Eagles made the tournament, and this is UMHB’s first appearance in the last four years.

Players to Watch

Chicago: #9 F Max Lopez (Jr.) – 17g, 4a, 8GWG | #10 F Matthew Koh (Jr.) – 10g, 10a, 3GWG | #6 M Nicco Capotosto (Jr.) – 0g, 1a | #19 D Stacey Reimann (Sr.) – 0g, 0a | #17 M Dayo Adeosun (So.) 2g, 14a

Calvin: #6 D Trent Vegter (Jr.) – 4g, 7a | #16 F Bobby McCaw (Jr.) – 21g, 6a, 6GWG | #12 F Hunter Olson (So.) – 14g, 11a | #9 M Jacob Witte (Jr.) – 11g, 11a | #1 GK Nate Van Ryan (Sr.) – .877 SvPct., 0.36 GAA, 15 ShO | #7 D Matt Hinds (Sr.) – 5g, 13a, 3GWG

Emory: #31 F Jason McCartney (Sr.) – 13g, 3a | #10 M Moustafa Khattab (Jr.) – 8g, 4a, 5GWG | #23 D Aidan Datene (Jr.) – 3g, 3a | #11 M Tyler Santee (Jr.) – 3g, 1a | #2 F Christian Meyer (Sr.) – 5g, 2a, 3GWG

M. Hardin-Baylor: #12 D Caleb Vandergriff (Jr.) – 4g, 2a, 2GWG | #10 F Case Carnes (Sr.) – 10g, 5a, 7GWG | #3 M Caleb Almanza (Sr.) – 1g, 2a | #27 D Steven Dang (Jr.) | #26 D Luke Lopez (Sr.)

Why they will advance to the Final Four

Chicago: Despite being at home, many will pick Calvin in Friday’s game. That should suit Chicago just fine, as the Maroons can play freely and with less pressure on their dynamic attack. Chicago strikes early against Calvin, throwing a wrench into the Knights’ game plan, then Koh buries a counter to finish 2-0 in the final stages. Full of belief, Chicago dominates from start-to-finish and books a spot in the Final Four with a comprehensive 3-0 win.

Calvin: The Knights handle big road games better than any program in the country. In the last three years, Calvin has won NCAA games at Ohio Wesleyan, Kenyon, Carnegie Mellon, Messiah, and John Carroll. Calvin will have no fear, and the Vegter-led back line handles Chicago’s forwards just long enough for Bobby McCaw to snag a goal. On neutral ground in the Elite Eight, Calvin will simply not be denied another chance at a title, as the Knights grind out a 2-0 win over Emory or UMHB.

Emory: The Eagles come out firing in a wild, 3-2 win over UMHB. Then, whether a rematch against Chicago or a new match against Calvin, Emory leans on McCartney and Khattab to create goals with little help. Both are up to the task, as Emory scores on either side of halftime and survives giving up a late goal to reach the Final Four

M. Hardin-Baylor: The Cru are built for these games. Strong in the back and quick on the counter, UMHB catches Emory once in the first half and once late on to advance. In the Elite Eight, Vandergriff, Lopez, Dang, Gooden, and Eichorn keep a dynamic opponent (be it Chicago or Calvin) off the board, and Dang repeats his heroics from the second round with a header off a free kick to send UMHB to the Final Four.


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Comments or feedback for the author?  E-mail Ryan Harmanis.

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