Increasing its winning streak to six straight games, the Men's Soccer team registered convincing victories last week by defeating Washington College, 3-0, on Wednesday and Muhlenberg, 2-0, on Saturday. With those two wins, the Blue Jays improved their overall record to 9-1 and added to their unprecedented shutout streak that now stands at six games.
Remarkably, the last time an opponent scored a goal on the Blue Jays was on Sept. 13, when Arcadia handed the Jays their only loss of the season.
Since then, however, the men's team has played nearly flawless soccer, racing to the top of the Centennial Conference standings with a 5-0 Conference record. Doing so, they have practically guaranteed themselves a spot in the four-team conference tournament to be held in early November.
Against Washington College last Wednesday, the Blue Jays established a fast tempo early, scoring two goals within a three-minute span. The first score came in the 11th minute of the contest when senior forward Aerik Williams fed senior forward/midfielder Paul Galli for a header into goal.
Senior forward Matthew Doran added the team's second score just 2:11 later as the Blue Jays jumped to a 2-0 lead. Later, in the 73rd minute, sophomore midfielder Chad Tarabolous scored unassisted to increase
Hopkins' lead to 3-0 and to cap off the scoring for the Blue Jays. Following a pattern that has emerged of late, the Jays out shot their opponents by a substantial margin, taking eighteen shots on goal compared to four shots by Washington.
"We wanted to come out and make sure we took Washington College seriously so that we wouldn't look ahead to the Muhlenberg game," says Tarabolous. "We got a couple of goals on the board early which really helped."
The Blue Jays knew, however, that their biggest obstacle stood before them later in the week. Facing one of their toughest contests of the season, the Blue Jays put their 15-game Centennial Conference winning streak on the line Saturday when they traveled to Allentown, Pa. to battle the Muhlenberg University Mules. Once again, Hopkins scored early by virtue of a Williams assist. This time, senior midfielder Ryan Kitzen headed Williams' cross shot into goal in the 12th minute to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. Later, in the 54th minute, Doran passed to Galli for the Blue Jays second and final score of the evening.
"We had struggled at Muhlenberg in the past, so we came into the game with a lot of motivation," says Galli.
In the game, both the Blue Jay's offense and defense overpowered the Mules. Offensively, Hopkins took 20 shots on goal while the veteran Blue Jay defense teamed with freshman goalkeeper Gary Kane, Jr. to secure the shutout. The Mules failed to take a shot on goal in the entire contest as Kane, Jr. recorded his third career shutout and the second in as many games.
As a result of their two victories this week, the Blue Jays jumped to No. 12 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Poll (NSCAA). They had previously been ranked No. 17. Hopkins also improved to No. 2 in the Mid-Atlantic Region rankings after being ranked No. 3 last week.
Now, the Blue Jays' attention shifts towards their next contest when they host Drew at Homewood Field on Saturday in a game billed as one of the Blue Jays' most important of the season.
The match features two of the dominant teams from all of Division III.
Currently, both teams are ranked in the top twenty by the NSCAA poll. The game could not come at a better time for the Blue Jays, who will go the entire week without playing a game before Saturday's contest.
The team took Monday and Tuesday off to rest after playing several games the previous week. Yet despite the days off, players stress the atmosphere surrounding the Drew game will be anything but lax.
"Muhlenberg has a lot of talented players and they are a top twenty team. We need to come out focused and ready to play," says Galli.
The importance of the game, even though it pits two teams in separate conferences is enormous.
"We play them at home so we need to use that to our advantage, adds Tarabolous. "We have a good chance of winning if we set the tone and take it to them early.