The men’s soccer team’s season came to an end two weekends ago with a heartbreaking finish in the NCAA Sweet 16 against the Tufts University Jumbos.
Before falling 4-1 in penalty kicks, the Blue Jays put up a valiant effort against the hosts of the NCAA Quarterfinal Regional, going into double overtime and holding the third-ranked team in the nation scoreless for 110 minutes.
The matchup was characterized by strong defense, which was to be expected as both teams are nationally ranked in the top three for goals against average per game. Scoring opportunities for both teams were limited, but the Blue Jays found chances late in the game.
Sophomore forward Achim Younker put up a shot in the 51st minute of play after working his way past the Jumbos’ defense but unfortunately was unable to find the mark.
Soon after, the Hopkins offense created another threatening attempt in the box, but Tufts’ goalkeeper Conner Mieth pounced and stifled their chance at a goal.
The Blue Jay defense, spearheaded by seniors Drew Collins, Jonah Muniz and Mike Swiercz, kept the Jumbos’ offense at bay, allowing minimal scoring chances throughout the entirety of the game.
The Jumbos began to pose a threat in the first overtime period, as senior Matt Zinner put a hard shot up towards the Hopkins net. However, the Jays’ graduate student goalkeeper Bryan See, stopped the shot with a diving save.
With both teams unable to find the mark after 110 minutes, the winner of the tense Sweet-16 matchup would be decided in penalty kicks.
Hopkins began the shootout with junior midfielder Cole Rosenberger sinking the first shot against Mieth with ease.
His goal put the Blue Jays out in front right off the bat. Tufts was able to tie up the count with the help of midfielder Zach Lane, who snuck one past See.
The Jumbos then put up three unanswered penalty-kick goals, eventually winning 4-1 and advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight.
The Blue Jays finished out their season with a 16-1-4 record, tying the program record for least amount of losses. The 16 wins that the team posted are the most since the 2009 season.
This year’s squad hung its hat on its defense, allowing only six goals, an astoundingly low number that tied the school record for goals allowed in a season.
Additionally, the defensive line recorded 16 shutouts, which broke the single-season record for shutouts.
This team spent the season frustrating opposing offenses, a crucial key to their success.
See leaves the Blue Jays as one of the best goalkeepers in the program’s history and ranks in the program’s top three in career save percentage (0.843), shutouts (28) and wins (39). He points to the defense as one of their strong points this season.
“Our defense has been tremendous all year. Our back line is playing all together in our second year, and we certainly surpassed everyone’s expectations,” See said. “Setting a school record in shutouts, goals against average and save percentage in a single season, especially with a stronger strength of schedule this season, was definitely something we did not expect.”
With only four seniors departing the team, the underclassmen-heavy squad is poised to be in a position to experience even more success within the coming years.
The team was led on the offensive side by Younker, who posted a career-best 17 goals in his second season. Other important players were Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year freshman midfielder RJ Moore and freshman midfielder Alejandro Maclean.
With Moore and Maclean returning next season, the high-powered Blue Jay offense, which posted 45 goals this season, the most since 2007, is in shape to threaten defenses across the Conference for the next couple of years.
See thinks that this season has opened the door for future success for this team.
“Our offense, which was led by a really talented group of underclassmen, has also done really well overall,” See said. “They have a couple more years left together, and I’m really excited to see what they can accomplish in the next couple of seasons.”
Offensive star Younker echoed this optimistic sentiment.
“Overall, I think we had a really great season. We continuously grew as a team and got better as the season progressed, which is something that I think everyone is happy about,” Younker said. “We’ve set the standard for ourselves and for the program, so all we can do is be excited and work hard for the next season so that we can be even better.”
The exciting young team is primed for the coming years and will look to build off of their undefeated Centennial Conference regular season record.