Men's Soccer Falls To No 18 Ohio Wesleyan In NCAA Tournament Opener

by Abigail Krueger '21

A heart-wrenching loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament concluded the Hope College men's soccer 2019 season. 

No. 18-ranked Ohio Wesleyan scored twice late at the Van Andel Soccer Stadium to win, 2-0, on Friday night.

The Flying Dutchmen finish with a 14-6-1 overall record.

"I thought it was a great game, but the first goal is critical, and Ohio Wesleyan got it," head coach Dave Brandt said. 

The close game remained tied at 0-0 for more than 75 minutes of play until Ohio Wesleyan's Ryan Huelsman snuck an unassisted shot underneath the crossbar with 14 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the second half. 

Three minutes later, Ohio Wesleyan's Hector Gomez tucked another unassisted goal inside the left goal post.

Ohio Wesleyan (14-5-3) outshot Hope, 13-8. The Flying Dutchmen had slowly created a number of quality chances around net throughout the match but could not convert.

"It was a hard-fought game all around. Both teams were really going at it. There was a battle in the middle," senior forward Logan Bylsma of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS) said.

Byslma and four teammates played for the final time for the Flying Dutchmen: midfielder Isaac Braak of Grand Haven, Michigan (Grand Haven), defender Dalton Bruso of Bloomington, Illinois (Normal Community), defender Jordan Hooker of Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Grand Rapids), and goalie Blair McCormick of Wadsworth, Illinois (Warren Township).

Brandt pulled his seniors out from the team after the match, so they could be saluted by their teammates and fans.

These seniors helped lead the Flying Dutchmen to back-to-back, 14-win seasons for the first time since 2004-05.  This year's team was also the first to qualify for the NCAA tournament since 2013. 

"For these guys, we've been through a lot together," Brandt said. "These guys were five critical pieces to the team. They are the rocks, face and leadership of the program."

Braak credited his coach and his fellow teammates for the success..

"When Coach Brandt came in, he completely changed the culture of our program, and we couldn't be more grateful for that," Braak said. "Credit to the guys for really buying in and making great things happen."

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