by Alan Babbitt
Ryan Flynn's low shot from the end line deflected off the keeper and into the back of the net, setting off a celebration for the Hope College men's soccer amid a snowy night at Van Andel Soccer Stadium.
After several missed conversions, the Flying Dutchmen finally produced the second goal they needed to put away regionally ranked Kalamazoo College and earn for a 2-0 victory in Wednesday's Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament semifinal.
Second-seeded Hope (14-5 overall) advanced to Saturday's 4 p.m. championship match at top-seeded and nationally ranked Calvin University. The winner receives the MIAA's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
This is the Flying Dutchmen's third MIAA Tournament final appearance. They previously advanced and won in 2013 and 2011.
Flynn iced the game in the 65th minute.
Following a Kalamazoo foul and indirect kick, Flynn possession near the end line to about 20 free from the right goalpost. The sophomore from Bloomington, Illinois (Bloomington HS) sent a right-footed kick along the ground that deflected into the net for a two-goal lead. It was his sixth goal of the season.
The Flying Dutchmen held a 1-0 lead for nearly 55 minutes despite several point-blank opportunities that were either shot wide or turned away by Kalamazoo keeper Luke Kastran. Hope earned a 20-11 edge in shots for the match.
"Shame us for not scoring earlier," head coach Dave Brandt said. "I thought there was a clear penalty in the first half (missed), but we missed a couple of changes as well, a couple of golden chances just to put the game away. To finally get the second, it was time and much needed obviously."
Defender Jordan Hooker put Hope on the board early in the first half.
The senior from Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids) headed in a corner kick from sophomore forward Alec Belcastro of Washington, Pennsylvania (Kiski School) for his first goal of the season.
Hooker, an All-MIAA First Team defender this season after playing forward last season, used his height in the far post to win the well-placed corner from Belcastro.
"He scored on the first corner and on the next corner, he nearly doubled it. Isaac (Braak) was right on the doorstep," Brandt said. "Jordan created a couple of great opportunities."
Hooker also helped the Flying Dutchmen record their 11th shutout of the season — their most since a team-record tying 13 shutouts during the 2011 season.
Senior goalie Blair McCormick of Wadsworth, Illinois (Warren Township) made three saves against Kalamazoo (11-4-2). The Hornets were fourth in the latest NCAA Division III regional rankings, which Hope was seventh in the Central Region.