110 minute battle ends men’s soccer season

Lexi Kerr, Features Editor

Lexi Kerr
The men’s team walks across their home turf for the last time during their 2019 season after the final whistle to greet their friends and family. Senior Henry Rosenfeld runs ahead to hug a former teammate on the sidelines.

After double overtime, Linfield men’s soccer tied their long-standing rival Willamette 0-0 on Saturday, largely due to senior goalkeeper Nick Van Kleek saving all Willamette’s eight shots on goal. 

Not only was it a rival game for the ‘Cats, but it was also the team’s senior night. The ‘Cats honored five seniors, all of whom have played together since freshman year: Isaias Flores, Malachi Stalberg, Henry Rosenfeld, Irvin Figueroa and Van Kleek.

Flores was present for the ceremony but was unable to play due to a the two yellow cards he was issued in the Nov. 3 game against Whitworth.

The rivalrous game against the third ranked team in the Northwest Conference was high in aggression, but many of Linfield’s scoring opportunities came from Willamettes’s fouls. Willamette players fouled 21 times and received two yellow cards in comparison to Linfield’s 10 fouls.

The last 45 seconds of the second half had spectators on their feet and screaming, signifying perhaps the climax of the game. In an attempt to stop a breakaway, Van Kleek fouled a player in the box after, trying to block his shot but giving Willamette a penalty kick. 

Nonetheless, Van Kleep saved what could have been Willamette’s game winner to seal his first shutout of the 2019 season. “Going from rock bottom to feeling on top of the world within minutes was an insane rush. I’m never gonna forget that moment,” Van Kleek said. The Linfield fans leaped off their seats with each of Van Kleek’s saves.

To show for his efforts, Van Kleek was named NWC defensive student-athlete of the week on Monday.

“Every year, our program views this game as our biggest game of the year,” said Rosenfeld of the Willamette match. Rosenfeld said in his senior speech before the game that one of his favorite memories was beating Willamette his freshman year. 

The game attracted a stand packed with friends, family, the women’s soccer team, the Linfield marching band and the cheerleading team to cheer the seniors on in their last game. The marching band and cheerleaders entertained the crowd during halftime- a unique experience that most Division III schools don’t get at a soccer match. The rival side was also packed with a boisterous crowd of Willamette alumni who chanted cheers at the Linfield side of the stands and Linfield players. Later, the crowd attracted attention from Linfield Campus Public Safety and the police from their loud behavior.

The ‘Cats when to double-overtime with zero goals on both sides. In the last two minutes of the second overtime, Linfield had a promising opportunity when defender Ronan Krutzikowsky utilized his signature flip-throw to send the ball into the box to junior Dayton Farrow, whose shot missed just wide of the goal.

Van Kleek said the team’s practices leading up to Saturday’s game were elevated, especially coming off a win against fourth-ranked Whitworth on Nov. 3.

“Rivalry games in college sports, and this one in particular, just bring out a level of effort that most players didn’t know they had.”

— Henry Rosenfeld

Head Coach Adam Howard kept Saturday’s pregame talk short and sweet with two main requests of the team: play for each other and play for the pride of the program.

“There was just this feeling in the locker room from the freshman to the seniors that we were going to lay it all out there for each other,” Van Kleek said.

The final whistle of the game marked the end of the game and the end of the five seniors collegiate soccer career. The tie sealed Linfield at sixth in the conference and Willamette at third. 

“It’s hard to put the emotions and thoughts I had into words after the whistle blew,” said Rosenfeld. “I would mostly say a sense of gratitude was the most prominent, to see all the support from the fans and the incredible effort my whole team played with from start to finish. It felt great to just see all the love and support for the program.”