Men's Semifinal 1 Preview
|Other Previews: Men's Semifinal 2||Women's Semifinal 1 | Semifinal 2|
NCAA Division III Men's Soccer - National Semifinal 1
Friday, November 30 — 11:00 am ET
No. 4 Chicago (18-2-1)
No. 1 Calvin (21-1-0)
How they reached the Final Four
2018 Statistical Overview
Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 18)
The two teams in this semifinal are loaded with experience, as Chicago and Calvin have each made the tournament the last five years. Chicago made last year's Final Four while Calvin went to back-to-back Final Fours in 2015 and 2016.
Players to Watch
Chicago: #10 F Matthew Koh (Sr.) – 14g, 8a, 6gwg (UAA MVP, All Region 1st Team) | #9 F Max Lopez (Sr.) – 16g, 6a, 6gwg (UAA 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #6 M Nicco Capotosto (Sr.) – 1a (UAA 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #30 D Scott Lich (So.) – 3a (UAA 2nd Team, All Region 2nd Team) | #3 D Sam Drablos (Jr.) – 2a (UAA 2nd Team) | #1 GK Aaron Katsimpalis (So.) – 0.61 GAA, 0.860 SvPct (UAA 2nd Team, All Region 2nd Team)
Calvin: #6 D Trent Vegter (Sr.) – 3g, 6a, 3gwg (MIAA MVP, All Region 1st Team) | #9 M Jacob Witte (Sr.) – 17g, 8a, 5gwg (MIAA 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #16 F Bobby McCaw (Sr.) – 20g, 12a, 4gwg (MIAA 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #7 M Hunter Olson (Jr.) – 13g, 7a, 3gwg (MIAA 1st Team) | #20 M Jacob Lyon (Jr.) – 2g, 5a (MIAA 1st Team, All Region 1st Team) | #1 GK Chris Morrish (So.) – 0.47GAA, 0.830 SvPct (MIAA 1st Team, All Region 1st Team
These teams are intimately familiar with each other, having met in last year’s NCAA tournament and in September this year. Chicago jumped on Calvin in the 2017 Sweet Sixteen, scoring twice in the first five minutes and making the lead stand up to end the Knights’ season. Calvin carried much of the play in this year’s matchup, but again Chicago kept the Knights off the board in a 1-0 road victory. The national title game also brings a potential rematch. Chicago and Rochester are conference foes, and Chicago edged a tight game in September on an 89th minute goal by Kyle Ruark. Calvin, meanwhile, would love another shot at Tufts after losing to the Jumbos in overtime in the 2016 title game
Final Four rematches are rare, given regional and conference restrictions, but they can drastically change how the game plays out. That is particularly true here, as these teams have played twice in the last 13 months, and each team’s core (and coach) remains the same. Normally both sides would come out flying, but they are well aware that the other can punish any mistakes that result from too much aggression or committing too many men to attack.
Expect these teams to feel each other out early. Both possess the ball well, but attack in different ways. Chicago attacks in a variety of ways, playing through the middle, serving in crosses, or even going direct, depending on the situation. This provides an advantage, on the one hand, with many routes to a goal. But it also carries a disadvantage, as those routes generally go through Max Lopez and Matthew Koh. The pair have combined for almost 70 percent of Chicago’s, so Calvin’s game plan could be as simple as stopping those two. And with D3Soccer.com Defender of the year Trent Vegter leading a stout defense, Chicago could be in trouble if the forwards aren’t firing.
On the flip side, Calvin follows a familiar offensive system, moving the ball on the ground and looking for through balls and cutbacks. Senior forward Bobby McCaw gives Calvin the ability to play direct, but the Knights rarely try that approach. Again, this has advantages and drawbacks. When things get tough, or when individual players are struggling, Calvin can focus on its distinct style and use that to work its way through a tough patch in the game. But when a team sorts out how to defend against it—as Chicago has managed in the last two matchups—Calvin could have difficulty scoring. One alternative route is shots from distance, which have proved effective for Calvin, but set pieces might be another way to snatch a goal.
Whichever side’s midfield exerts its will is likely to win. Nicco Capotosto anchors Chicago’s, helping dominate possession and limit passing lanes for the opposition. But he and the Maroons will have their hands full with Calvin’s interchanging group. The Knights constantly look for pockets of space in between the lines, opening up gaps in the defense to play through. Calvin also sends waves of midfielders into the attack, with Jacob Witte and Hunter Olson each hitting double figures on the season. If Calvin gets control of the game and starts flooding Chicago’s box, the Maroons will be in trouble. However, Chicago’s midfield is used to seeing dynamic attacking teams, and they will look to negate Calvin’s movement and to feed Lopez and Koh. Calvin’s approach to attack also opens up opportunities for Chicago to counterattack, which the Maroons can do to devastating effect. On that front, Dayo Adeosun is Chicago’s wildcard. He has the ability to burst through the lines and create chances, as he did for the winning goal in the Elite Eight. His elevated play last year pushed Chicago to the Final Four, and might be enough to drive them to a title this year. On the other side, Lucas Albrecht plays the “super sub” role for Calvin and has come on strong of late. He is yet another Calvin midfielders with the ability to make a game-winning play.
Finally, watch to see which team handles the pressure better. Neither side is “happy to be here.” Chicago believes they should have won last year, and this is the last go-round for perhaps the best class in school history. Calvin has been so close, so many times—not just Coach Souders and this group of players, but even going back to 2009 and 2011. For both teams, there is a now-or-never urgency. That could bring out the best in players, causing them to elevate their game. Or it could lead to costly mistakes and an inability to come from behind or hold a late lead.
Prediction: 2-1 to whoever scores first. One goal just after halftime, another midway through, and then the trailing team pulls one back during a crazy final 10 minutes.
Comments or feedback for the author? E-mail Ryan Harmanis.