No. 1 Calvin Holds off F&M in Sweet 16

No. 1 Calvin Holds off F&M in Sweet 16

GAMBIER, Ohio. – A late offensive flurry from Franklin & Marshall failed to produce an equalizer as No. 1 Calvin held on for a 1-0 win in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA men's soccer tournament on Saturday afternoon on the campus of Kenyon College. 

Another historic season is in the books for the Diplomats, who closed out 2015 with a 17-4 record, while the Knights (23-0-1) advanced to tomorrow's Elite Eight matchup against Kenyon. 

Play was dominated by F&M in the early going, with possession being controlled in the Diplomats' offensive zone. Devon Malfitano nearly lit the scoreboard in the 10th minute when a long Janse Schermerhorn throw on the near side was collected at the top of the box by the senior midfielder, but launched just right of the goal. 

Calvin managed to capitalize on its only scoring chance of the first half. A nearside corner was sent to the right end line and controlled by the Knights, before Nick Groenwold placed an attempt on net that deflected off an F&M defender and in for the 1-0 lead.

Despite a late offensive push from the Diplomats in the closing minutes of the half, F&M went into the break down by one goal. The shot count belonged to the Diplomats by an 8-4 margin after 45 minutes of play, along with corners at 4-1. 

The Knights nearly doubled their advantage in the 66th, when a freekick in the center of the field from 35 yards out careened off the crossbar and out of bounds. Just two minutes later, a Jeremy Levine freekick from the far side was headed on net by Chase TenBrook, however, Calvin's goalkeeper made one of several spectacular saves on the afternoon to keep F&M off the board. 

With time running out on the Diplomats' season and only six minutes remaining in the contest, a breakdown from the Knights' defense led to a Schermerhorn breakaway down the near side. One-on-one with the 'keeper, Schermerhorn fired a low strike from 10 yards out, but the Calvin net minder somehow managed to get a hand on the ball to hold on for the win.

The overall shot count favored F&M at 14-9 as well as corners at 6-4. Malfitano led the way with four shots, followed by a trio of Diplomats with two apiece. Niko Giantsopulous (23-0-1) was unstoppable between the pipes for Calvin, picking up six saves on the contest. Trevor Britton (17-4) was dealt the hard-luck loss after turning back two attempts. 

F&M's heartbreaking loss draws an end to a season which saw the Diplomats advance to their third straight Sweet 16, reach the nation's No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history and start the season off with 14 consecutive wins.