Getting to know the faces of men’s football in 2021: Kyle Dezotell, Calvin Aroh, Travis Van Brewer
The 2021 season has been pivotal for the Tufts men’s soccer program. It was the first season played under head coach Kyle Dezotell, who was hired in March 2020 after the Jumbos won their second consecutive Division III national championship – their fourth in six seasons – under the former head coach Josh Shapiro.
Seven Jumbos from 2018 and 2019 National Championship teams — Calvin Aroh, Mati Cano, Derek Enge, Max Jacobs, Biagio Paoletta, Alex Ratzan and Travis Van Brewer — have found ways to expand their NCAA eligibility during the COVID pandemic -19 so they can participate in the 2021 season.
Both Aroh and Van Brewer pointed to having a fun final season with the football team as their main reason for delaying their graduation to play for the Jumbos.
“I felt like my college experience wasn’t really over,” Van Brewer said. “I think the pandemic took away some of the fun and excitement of last year, so I was really looking forward to being able to come back and have a transition phase where I could enjoy my last year.”
The Jumbos appeared to pick up where they left off in the 2021 season, as the team won its third NESCAC championship in program history. Tufts also made an appearance in the NCAA Elite 8, where they narrowly lost 5–4 to Connecticut College, who went on to become the NCAA National Champion.
The expected graduation of the aforementioned seven Jumbos, however, leaves a bit of uncertainty heading into the 2022 season as to whether the team will be able to maintain the high level of play they have consistently displayed over recent seasons. . New and existing players will be thrust into bigger roles, which is an inevitable truth for all college sports teams, but it will no doubt be a challenge for the Jumbos to replace some of their best and most decorated players in the history of the program. Coach Dezotell’s leadership and coaching style will also have a greater impact on this team than before as a group coached by Shapiro for three years leaves.
We will have to wait until this fall to begin to find answers to these questions about the men’s soccer program. In the meantime, let’s get to know coach Dezotell and two of the graduating players whose partnership in the center of midfield formed the backbone of the 2021 squad – Aroh and Van Brewer.
From an early age, Dezotell achieved outstanding success in a wide range of athletics. In high school, he was named Gatorade Vermont Player of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and was state and New England champion in Nordic skiing. He then competed as a student-athlete on the Middlebury College men’s soccer team from 1999 to 2002, where the Panthers won the inaugural NESCAC Championship in 2000 and Dezotell was selected to the All-NESCAC First Team in 2002. Today, he still holds the record for most career goals and is tied for second most in career assists in Panthers program history.
He became assistant coach of the Division II men’s soccer team at Saint Michael’s College in 2003 after graduating from Middlebury, and landed his first head coaching job at Division III Johnson State College today. Northern Vermont University today, one year later. He then held Division III head coaching positions at Norwich University (2006-2015), Manhattanville College (2016) and Ithaca College (2017-2019) before joining Tufts.
Dezotell explains that he enjoys coaching Division III football because student-athletes can play the game they love but are also able to pursue their other interests, something he experienced playing football for Middlebury .
“I think there are 10 to 15 of us who are graduate college football coaches from Middlebury,” Dezotell said. “I think the common thread for many of us who became coaches and certainly for me is that we all loved our college football experience at Middlebury College and with our coach, and it was fun to do. part of these teams.”
In addition to setting high goals for its team, Dezotell also wants fun to be the main motivator for its athletes.
“I also thought it was really important with this group, which had such high expectations and so many guys coming back for another year, … that we were trying to have as much fun as possible because if you just go there and the only goal through your college football season is to try to win the national championship, so that’s a really heavy feeling,” Dezotell said. “We really enjoy having fun and making sure that is intentionally part of our program.”
Fun, of course, isn’t the only ingredient in Dezotell’s recipe for team success.
“I appreciate the relationships much more than the tactics of a football game,” Dezotell said. “I am [also] just a big proponent of having very high standards and expectations.
Tactically speaking, Dezotell’s coaching style emphasizes the importance of creating attacking opportunities by playing good defense.
“Whether you’re a striker, midfielder or defender, you’re going to defend if you want to be part of our team and step onto the pitch,” Dezotell said. “We really appreciate the elements of the game like the transition. I think the moments of transition are extremely important.
Under Dezotell, Aroh and Van Brewer have both enjoyed outstanding midfield seasons in 2021. Adding six goals and three assists to his ability to dominate possession in the middle of the field, Aroh earned first-team honors from the NESCAC conference for the second consecutive season and United Soccer Coaches All-American First Team honors for the first time in 2021.
For Aroh, he feels he gained more confidence as a player at Tufts, as well as a greater awareness of where he needs to be on the pitch during games.
“In some games it would be me staying back and defending, and at times I might be more of a forward player,” Aroh said.
Van Brewer has started all but one game for the Jumbos in 2021 and has scored five goals and three assists en route to NESCAC Conference First Team honors, after earning NESCAC Conference Second Team honors in 2019.
Aroh graduated in December 2021 from the School of Arts and Sciences with a major in economics and a minor in entrepreneurship. He now works as an associate for an accounting firm and its advisory group in New York.
Van Brewer graduated summa cum laude in May 2021 from the School of Engineering with a major in civil engineering. He will also earn his master’s degree in civil engineering this spring through the school’s combined degree program. He will work in Boston as an associate for EY-Parthenon, a software strategy group, after graduation.
Dezotell praised Aroh and Van Brewer for their contributions to Tufts men’s football.
“Guys like Travis Van Brewer and Calvin Aroh don’t come around very often,” Dezotell said. “These are just special talents in Division III.”
Both players will also take valuable lessons from the men’s soccer program with them in life after college.
“I like how the men’s football at Tufts has been a fairly even playing field at all levels,” Van Brewer said. “Just in life and moving forward, especially in the workplace, where I’ll be going from senior to sort of the lowest on the totem pole, that’s a good lesson that everyone can contribute and just look for opportunities to make an impact wherever you can in life.