“We scored our first four, then they scored their first four penalty kicks,” said Buccaneers’ senior Vanderlaan, who was the Crew’s third kicker. “Our goalie blocked their fifth one, and we scored ours.”
“I can’t explain it,” added fellow Buccaneer senior and Crew forward Nate Rose. “It was the best feeling.”
Vanderlaan said he was able to keep his nerves under control as he approached his penalty shot.
“I honestly didn’t feel anything,” he said. “I didn’t look at the goalie. I had my set corner I was going to, and (the opposing goalie) guessed the other way.”
Winning the national championship was a dream come true for Rose and Vanderlaan, who have been to the national event the last four years with their Crew squad. They’ve had tremendous success in championship games in other tournaments, never losing with a title on the line, but up until this year’s victory, they’ve never reached the championship game at the national event.
“We’ve never made it to the finals at nationals, even though we’ve made it there every year,” Rose said.
The Crew’s path to the national championship began with a 4-0 win over the Florida Nike Rush. The second team in the Crew’s path was the Dallas Texans, who had beaten the Crew earlier in the year. Rose used his tremendous speed to draw a penalty kick, which a teammate converted, helping the Crew score a 4-1 victory.
The final game of pool play was against Penn Fusion, and the two outstanding teams played to a tie.
The two teams met again the following day for the national championship. The Crew pulled ahead on a goal by Sean Conerty and looked to have the game wrapped up, only to see Penn Fusion score a spectacular goal in the final minute of regulation, forcing overtime.
Vanderlaan said the national championship has stoked his competitive fire as he and Rose prepare to lead the Grand Haven varsity soccer team into battle in the coming weeks.
“I’ve always had a competitive edge, but from here, I just want to win everything,” he said. “From here, the state championship is our biggest goal.”