This past weekend, the now 11th-ranked Hopkins women’s soccer team split the Centennial Conference Tournament with two thrillers, both of which were decided by penalty kicks.
The Blue Jays defeated the McDaniel College Green Terror in the semifinals and fell to the Swarthmore College Garnet in the Conference Championship.
Despite not winning the Conference title, Hopkins earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. They also earned the privilege to host the first two rounds.
Junior defender Kyla Persky clinched the Jays’ victory in the semifinals with a goal during penalty kicks.
“At this point it’s behind us,” Persky said. “We have a fantastic opportunity to host the first and second rounds of the Tournament, so now it’s time for us to buckle down, learn from our mistakes and come back even stronger than before.”
The semifinal game against the Green Terror was evenly matched throughout. Following a scoreless first half, McDaniel struck first. Not even one minute into the second half, forward Katie Kirschenmann sent a shot to the back of the net to give the Green Terror a 1-0 lead.
The Blue Jays tied the game up in the 66th minute after freshman forward Riley O’Toole scored off of an assist from junior defender Toni Abate.
At the end of regulation, the score was still tied at one. Two scoreless overtimes then sent the game to penalty kicks.
Each of the Jays’ first three shots went in, coming off the feet of senior forward Bailey Monaco, sophomore midfielder Emily Maheras and senior defender Hallie Horvath.
With penalty kicks knotted up at three a piece, Persky found the back of the net, clinching the victory for Hopkins.
“Taking a [penalty kick] in the semifinal game was just a tiny piece of a fantastic team win,” Persky said. “It’s an absolute privilege to be a part of this program. It’s the strength of that support that allows us to be so successful.”
Maheras attributes the team’s ability to come back and outlast McDaniel to a strong team dynamic.
“Every player on the team supports one another on and off the field,” she said. “This team has the best team chemistry out of any team that I’ve ever played on.”
In the Centennial Conference Championship, Hopkins went up against the Swarthmore College Garnet.
Swarthmore dominated the first half, getting off to a 2-0 lead with goals in the 15th minute and the 27th minute. However, the Blue Jays came ready to play in the second half.
In the 58th minute, Horvath took a free kick that ricocheted off the post and went directly to the foot of senior defender and forward Thea Harvey-Brown, who sent a shot past Swarthmore goalie Amy Shmoys.
A few minutes later, from beyond the box, Maheras fired one to the back of the net to tie the game up at two.
Maheras talked about the Jays’ ability to fight back from a deficit like they did in the semifinals.
“Coming back from 2-0 behind in the second half was extremely exciting,” Maheras said. “Nobody on the team gave up, and everyone continued to play for each other.”
As in the semifinals, this score would hold through the end of regulation and two overtimes, sending the game to penalty kicks.
The Garnet took the penalty kicks 3-1 and the Conference Championship, as Monaco was the lone Blue Jay to score.
However, thanks to an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Jays’ season will not end there.
Maheras was ecstatic about the bid and the competitiveness that the team displayed in the Conference Tournament.
“After managing to come back from two down in the second half, I am very confident with our team’s offensive performance going into NCAAs,” she said.
Persky agreed, expressing similar sentiments about the team’s defense.
“To come back from a 2-0 deficit and bring a game to [penalty kicks] like we did in the finals is certainly no easy feat,” she said. “Each and every player on our team kept their head up and brought the very same intensity from the first minute to the last.”
The Jays look forward to taking that intensity into the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s the kind of mentality and character that simply cannot be taught,” Persky said. “More than that, it’s the kind of mentality and character that wins national championships.”
Hopkins will host the College of Staten Island, Wilkes University and 22nd-ranked Connecticut College for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
The Blue Jays will square off against the College of Staten Island in the first round on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. on Homewood Field.