by Eva Dean Folkert
One down. Here's to many more to go.
The Hope men's soccer team gave new head coach Dave Brandt a debut win in orange and blue on Friday night. Playing before a Community Day crowd of more than 300, the Flying Dutchmen opened their 2018 season with a dominating 3-0 victory over Manchester College (Indiana) in the Cal Bergsma Memorial Tournament.
And after over 25 years of unmitigated collegiate coaching success, Brandt — a six-time national champion at Division III Messiah (Pa.) College and a program reviver for the Division I U.S. Naval Academy — still felt a few butterflies floating around his midsection before his team took the field at Van Andel Soccer Stadium.
"There's always nerves for me for sure," said Brandt. "Absolutely there were nerves. I don't know how not to have nerves."
The Flying Dutchmen didn't put a dent in some of their new coach's nervousness until 40:23 into the game. Sophomore James Elwell of Ada (Forest Hills Northern), a substitute defender, got the first goal of the Brandt-era by directing a fierce left-side shot to the right corner of the goal off an assist from junior forward Jordan Hooker of Grand Rapids (East Grand Rapids).
At half, the score stood 1-0.
In the second half, Hope dictated most of the game's momentum. The Flying Dutchmen scored their second goal in under two minutes after the whistle when senior forward Christian Dault of Grand Haven (Grand Haven) buried a speedy goal at 46:19. He was assisted by senior forward James Reymann of Columbus, Ohio (Worthington Kilbourne).
At 56:35, Reyman fed another assist inside the box, this time to junior Logan Bylsma of Hudsonville (Hudsonville) who sent a header over the outstretched hands of Manchester goalie Justin Meredith.
Hope had one more real opportunity to score when senior midfielder Sam Mason of Wheaton, Illinois (Wheaton North) kicked a semi-open screamer at the left side of the goal at 87:24. The post stopped that shot, however; it caromed back into play, and the clock ran down for another two and a half minutes to its 3-0 final.
Hope took 21 shots (11 on goal) to the Spartans' six (two on goal). Hope junior goalie Blair McCormick of Wadsworth, Illinois (Warren Township) recorded two saves while freshmen keeper Joey Weber of Buckley, Michigan (Buckley) finished the shutout.
Twenty-four Hope players saw action in Friday's contest. Of the 27 Flying Dutchmen on the roster, a third (9) are freshmen. With a squad on the young side, Brandt got a good opportunity in this opener to see a number of players in official action.
"The guys' attitudes to try and do what we want to do has been good from the start," said Brandt, "and I mean from last spring when I got here too. But for some reason, we were slow getting our game legs under us. This was 90 minutes of real game action so that's really important, and we got through it.
"We'll need to be better tomorrow night," he contended. "I don't mean to sound like a spoil sport but (Richard) Stockton (New Jersey) is a good team. We'll need to be sharper tomorrow night. It's a good start, though. Good to get a win."
Hope is back in action against Richard Stockton on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in Van Andel Soccer Stadium.