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Men's Semifinal 1 Preview

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By Ryan Harmanis

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

   Berth 1st / 2nd Rounds Sectional
Chicago UAA AQ Bye
W2-1 Carleton (H)
W2-0 Trinity (Tx.) (H)
W1-0 (ot) Luther (H)
Calvin MIAA AQ W4-0 Greenville (H)
W2-0 UW-Platteville (H)
W4-1 PSU-Behrend (N)
W3-1 Case Western (A)

2018 Statistical Overview

   Record (Pct.) GSA : GAA (Diff.) Avg. OWP SoS vs. Top 25 Last Ten
Chicago 18-2-1 (.881) 2.21 : 0.61 (+1.60) .697 .656 5-1-1 8-2-0
Calvin 21-1-0 (.955) 4.17 : 0.50 (+3.67) .625 .604 1-1-0 10-0-0

Head Coaches


Mike Babst, 6th year (2013-2018), 87-22-12 (.769)

NCAA's (5 of 6 yrs.): 9-2-3 (.750) | 2nd Final Four | Semifinal ('17), Sweet 16 ('16)

In his first head coaching stint, Mike Babst has taken a decent program and made it elite. A graduate of Boston College, Coach Babst earned a law degree before choosing a career in coaching. He apprenticed as an assistant for several years at the D1 level before taking over at Chicago in 2013. Babst’s first year saw marginal improvement before the team took off in 2014, winning the UAA and reaching the NCAA second round. After a second straight second-round exit, Coach Babst led Chicago into the upper echelon of Division III soccer in 2016 when the Maroons set program records in wins, shutouts, fewest goals allowed, and several other categories. Chicago was so dominant that it was shocking to see the team exit in the Sweet Sixteen. Still, Coach Babst would not be denied, and 2017 yielded the Final Four he and his team deserved. In just six seasons, Coach Babst ranks second in wins amongst Chicago’s ten coaches and first in win percent by a wide margin. He is a two-time UAA Coach of the Year (2014, 2017) and was recognized as USC Central Region Coach of the Year (2017).


Ryan Souders, 7th year (2012-2018), 137-17-6 (.875)

NCAA's (6 of 7 yrs.): 15-4-2 (.762) | 3rd Final Four | Runner-up ('16), Semifinal ('15), Sweet 16 ('17)

Ryan Souders, a 2007 Wheaton (Ill.) graduate is in his seventh season as men's soccer coach at Calvin; he is the seventh head coach in Knights’ men's soccer history. Souders served as an assistant men's soccer coach at the DIII level and then two years an assistant coach at Division I Davidson immediately prior to coming to Grand Rapids. Souders also had a short stint coaching at the professional level. He has produced a record that includes seven MIAA regular season crowns, six MIAA Tournament titles and six appearances in the NCAA Tournament. His career 0.875 win percentage is second amongst active DIII men’s soccer coaches, behind McCarty at Messiah. In 2015, Souders led Calvin to its first 20-win campaign as the Knights reached the NCAA semifinals for the third time in school history. The Knights finished the 2015 NCAA Tournament with an overall 24-1-1 mark. He then guided the Knights to the NCAA Division III Tournament finals for the third time in program history in 2016, where the Knights were edged in double-overtime by Tufts. Souders was named the Division III Men's USC Central Region Coach of the year (2015).

Seniors' 4-year Record (through Nov. 18)

   Overall (Pct.) NCAA Appearances Record Advancement
Chicago 66-10-8 (.833) '15 '16 '17 '18 8-1-3 Final Four: '17, '18
Calvin 89-6-2 (.928) '15 '16 '17 '18 15-3-0 Sweet 16: '17; Final Four: '15, '16, '18

Tournament Experience

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

Tournament Re-Matches

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 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.

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