by Alan Babbitt
Two first-half goals propelled the Hope College men's soccer team to a 2-1 victory at Alma College on Tuesday.
Hope improved to 11-5 overall and 4-1 in Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association play by defeating the Scots for the second time this season.
The Flying Dutchmen are two points ahead of third-place Kalamazoo College (3-1-1 MIAA) with two regular-season matches remaining. The first- and second-place teams in the MIAA standings receive first-round byes for the league tournament.
Hope hosts Trine University on Saturday, October 26 at 7 p.m. at Van Andel Soccer Stadium, while Kalamazoo faces first-place Calvin University at home on Saturday.
At Alma, Hope's leading goal scorers fueled the Flying Dutchmen.
After a flurry of five Hope shots during the opening 12 minutes, including three on goal, Bylsma took a pass from Belcastro in the 17th minute and put the Flying Dutchmen on the board.
Bylsma, a senior from Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS), recorded his ninth goal of the season.
It was the fourth assist of the season for Belcastro, a sophomore from Washington, Pennsylvania (Kiski School).
Six minutes later, Belcastro pulled even with Bylsma in the goal-scoring column after converting a pass from sophomore midfielder Ryan Flynn of Bloomington, Illinois (Bloomington). It was Flynn's second assist of the season.
Hope went on to outshoot Alma, 9-2, in the first half and 18-6 in the entire match.
Goalie Blair McCormick of Wadsworth, Illinois (Warren Township) finished with two saves for the Flying Dutchmen.
Alma (5-8, 2-2 MIAA) scored in the 69th minute on an unassisted goal from Connor McCain.