Maroons Advance to the Elite Eight with 1–0 Win

The UChicago Men’s Soccer team reached the final stages of the 2021 NCAA Division III Championship on Friday, after a victory against Calvin University.

By Finn Hartnett

The UChicago men’s soccer team defeated the Calvin Knights this Friday to progress to the final 8 of the 2021 NCAA Division III Championship. Second-year Robbie Pino’s acrobatic volley in the second half proved to be the only goal of the match; the Maroons saw out wave after wave of pressure from Calvin to take home the victory. 

The match began at 3:30 p.m. with both sets of fans noisily voicing their support. The Calvin supporters had come to Hyde Park in full force, waving pom-poms, ringing bells, and filling the visitor’s bleachers with red and yellow clothing. The UChicago fans’ support was more cerebral; loud shouts of “Go Maroons!” as well as criticism of the officials could be heard from the home section throughout the match. 

The Maroons pressured well in the beginning of the match—third-year Naz Kabbani almost scored straight away from a beautiful set-piece from first-year Jack Lueker—but the Knights grew into the game as it went on and began to look every bit as dangerous going forward as UChicago. Calvin winger Seamus Kilgallon swung in a cross that UChicago third-year Griffin Wada almost sliced into his own net. Twenty minutes into the match, Calvin had an even better scoring chance as winger Chris Schau stole the ball high up the pitch and made a nice pass to Kilgallon. Fifth-year senior Ben Brandt’s lunging tackle was the only thing that stopped Kilgallon from putting Calvin up one. 

That moment seemed to sum up the first half, as the two sides both defended solidly throughout. It was a game of tackles and clearances, without many clear-cut scoring opportunities. One had the sense that both sides would need a moment of magic to break the deadlock. The fans, to their credit, didn’t let the scrappy game affect their spirit; as the first half drew to a close and the weather grew colder and colder, they continued to exchange loud chants of “Let’s go Calvin!” and “Chicagooo!” UChicago fans pounded on the bleachers as their side won a corner in the dying seconds of the half, and they almost saw the ball fly into the goal. But the Knights’ goalkeeper, Kaelen Matascastillo, made a good catch, and the Calvin fans let out a loud cheer. 

In the second half, the Maroons again began well, immediately creating a few shooting chances. They switched back to their usual 4-3-3 formation from the 4-4-2 formation they had used at the start of the match and looked more like themselves as a result. In possession, they were more fluid, able to play through Calvin’s midfield with ease. 

By the 60th minute of the match, the sun had fallen, and a full, yellowing moon was rising over second-year Will Boyes in the UChicago goal. The action, however, was on the other side of the pitch. A long, high ball had been swung in from the left-hand side of the field to second-year Ryan Yetishefsky, who had headed the ball across goal to Robbie Pino. The midfielder hadn’t scored a goal all year, but you wouldn’t have guessed it at that moment. Pino chested the ball down expertly, turned, and fired a volley past Matascastillo to put UChicago ahead. It was an electric finish; the Chicago fans burst into a frenzy. 

UChicago almost added to its lead immediately after, as Yetishefsky had a good shot saved and then dragged another wide of the post. After those chances, though, Calvin pushed forward, and UChicago was pinned back. 

The Knights created some good attacks, mostly through their wingers. Their leading goal scorer this season, Sam Twigg, fired a great half-volley off the crossbar from 25 yards out. Then, with 25 minutes to go in the match, Calvin forward Oliver Akintade missed a great chance; his free header bounced weakly into the hands of Boyes. Boyes had been injured for almost the entire regular season; now that he was back, one got the sense he wanted to make up for lost time. In the final 15 minutes, he made a vital stop after a free kick from Calvin midfielder Mason Smith had been flicked dangerously towards goal. 

Calvin pushed all their players forward for the final minutes of the match; their season was on the line, after all. But the Maroons held firm; good clearances and positioning from their defense, as well as some voracious tackles from freshman midfielder Lyndon Hu, kept Calvin at bay. After the Knights were flagged for offsides in the final few seconds, the referee blew his whistle for full time. UChicago had won, 1–0. 

The Maroons next face North Park University, which defeated St. Olaf College in its round of 16 match, tomorrow afternoon.