by Eva Dean Folkert
A shutout win ... on the road ... in a new season ... is never a foregone conclusion. But the Hope College men's soccer team was indeed able to achieve just that, concluding its opening weekend of play at the Aurora (Ill.) University Kickoff Classic with a 2-0 win against the host Spartans.
The Flying Dutchmen are now off to a 2-0 start as well.
"I knew that tonight was going to be a real tester," said head coach Dave Brandt. "I knew it was going to be a hard game; it's second game of a long weekend tournament, it's late and it's hard to come away with a win. . . I thought our back four did a really good job with their dangerous forwards. In the end, we were able to create enough for the win."
Senior goalie Blair McCormick of Wadsworth, Illinois (Warren Township HS), picturd right, made four saves to assure the Flying Dutchmen achieved the shutout win.
Hope scored a goal in each half on Saturday. At the 31:00 mark, senior Logan Bylsma of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS) scored the first goal of the game, and his third goal of the young season, off an assist from senior Isaac Braak of Grand Haven (Grand Haven HS).
"Those two guys (Byslma and Braak) are our three most forward attacking players," said Brandt. "They played together last year as well in similar roles and did their jobs well tonight."
Late in the second half, sophomore Alec Belcastro from Washington, Pennsylvania (The Kiski School) out-maneuvered Aurora's backs in the box and drew a penalty from the Spartan's hard-charging goalie. Belcastro drilled his resulting penalty shot into the right side of the goal at the 79:00 mark to give Hope its 2-0 final.
"Alec transferred to Hope from West Point and is a great addition, a fantastic player," remarked Brandt.
In a fairly evenly contested match, Hope held the edge in shots, 14-11, and shots on goal, 8-4. The Spartans edged the Flying Dutchmen in corners, 5-4.
Hope hits on the road again next weekend for two games at Ohio Northern University in Ada. The Flying Dutchmen play host ONU on Friday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m. and then take on Transylvania (Ky.) University on Saturday, September 7 at 5 p.m.