by Lenny Padilla
Jordan Hooker pulled on a long sleeve, neon yellow jersey and headed into the unknown: Between the pipes of the soccer goal.
Hooker, a senior defender on the Hope College men's soccer team, has played 47 games in his career with the Flying Dutchmen and none of them have been as goalkeeper. But he was called into action when Hope went into a shootout with Calvin University on Saturday in the championship game of the MIAA tournament. The game was scoreless through double overtime.
Hooker said he hasn't played keeper since his junior year at East Grand Rapids High School. So it was a surprise when he was chosen over starting goalie Blair McCormick. But it had more to do with height than skill.
"Blair's 5-foot-8 and Jordan's 6-4," head coach Dave Brandt said. "Jordan's not only not a keeper, he's not ever a keeper. But we've practiced these plenty and Jordan was the guy."
In net, Hooker stopped the first shot he faced, but Calvin made the next four as Calvin's Hunter Olson's shot sealed the win. Hope got successful penalty kicks from Ryan Flynn, Alec Belcastro and Hooker.
"I'm a hockey guy. My dad's a Canadian from Manitoba and I grew up in Boston," Brandt said. "In hockey, they play to the death. They'll play as many overtimes as it takes. I'm not a PK guy, but it's a reality of soccer. I've been on both sides of it."
The match count as a tie toward Hope's record. The penalty kicks only decided who advanced, per NCAA rules.
Photo of Luke Rockwood by Lenny Padilla
The Flying Dutchmen are now 14-5-1 and are hoping for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. The field is announced on Monday, November 11 at 1:30 p.m.. Calvin (19-1-10) earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
"I thought it was a really good college soccer game," Brandt said. "It was a bit of a knockout dragout, with both sides tired in the end trying to find a goal."
McCormick, a senior from Wadsworth, Illinois (Warren Township), faced four shots in 110 minutes in double overtime. Brandt said he was happy with the defense in front of McCormick.
"Blair didn't have to make a big save," Brandt said. "He had a couple of point-blank (shots) right at him. He was certainly solid, but I thought our back six (defenders) did a really good job against an extremely talented Calvin team."
So was Hooker nervous when called?
"I was just excited for the opportunity for my team," he said. "Blair is a captain and goalie, he's been one of my best friends and he's a great guy."
Hooker said he's practiced in net a few times but never got in a game.
"I have in preparation a few times, especially toward the end of the season," Hooker said. "I talked to coach about it and I'm just a bigger body that could come in to play goal. I thought I'd show what I can do in practice and he gave me a shot tonight."
Hope did not finish with a shot on goal but had some good scoring opportunities.
The best chance was with seven minutes left in double overtime when senior Logan Bylsma of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville blistered a shot just over the crossbar.
"We had some really good chances, including the one in overtime where the ball went right over the bar," Brandt said.
Hooker was feeling melancholy after the game. It's hard for a senior not knowing if it is his final game.
"I'm hoping we can keep going and get an at-large bid next week," he said. "I don't want this to end. The investment with these guys, the training, all the effort … it makes this hurt even more."
If it is his last game, he said the program is in good hands.
"It's exciting to look to the future and all the young players we have," Hooker said. "Knowing the direction the program is going in, it's a blessing to be a part of it."
In Brandt's first two years as head coach, Hope College is 28-8-3.