W. Soccer advances to NCAA Sweet 16 with back-to-back wins

By BRANDON WOLFE | November 16, 2017


HOPKINSSPORTS.COM Junior Kyla Persky headed the ball into the net for the second goal of her collegiate career.

The Hopkins women’s soccer team began their run in the NCAA playoffs with their win in the first round against the College of Staten Island Dolphins.

After their 4-1 victory on Saturday, the Jays took another win, this time against the Wilkes University Colonels on Sunday, allowing them to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Jays got their start against the Dolphins on Saturday from sophomore midfielder Jackie Tait, who notched her first goal of the season after senior forward Bailey Monaco crossed the ball from the right side of the pitch.

Tait took advantage and drilled a shot that found the left side of the goal to put Hopkins ahead 1-0 at the 13:56 mark.

“We came out strong in the first two rounds and really embodied our coach’s pregame speech of ‘attack, attack, attack, attack.’ Everyone on the team stepped up, stayed on the same page and got the job done,” Tait said. “We were all fired up going into the Sweet 16 game. We were confident that if we continued to play our game, we would see some strong results this weekend.”

Just three minutes later, senior defender Hallie Horvath’s corner kick soared to sophomore midfielder Emily Maheras, who headed in the second goal of the game for the Jays.

The Jays’ first-half push wasn’t done yet. Senior forward Michelle Santangelo sprinted past the Staten Island defense to rip a shot that found the net after a ricochet off the left post. Santangelo’s goal widened the gap to gave the Jays a 3-0 lead going into the locker room at the half.

Santangelo kept the momentum for her team going in the second half, driving in a shot from 10 yards out. The Dolphins’ goalkeeper could not stop Santangelo’s heat, giving Hopkins a 4-0 lead.

Last Thursday, Santangelo received First Team All-Centennial Conference honors, along with fellow senior goalie Bess Kitzmiller and freshman forward Riley O’Toole, who was also named Rookie of the Year.

Junior defender Kyla Persky was given second-team honors, while Monaco and senior defender Leslie Bruni received honorable mentions. To cap off the awards, head coach Leo Weil was named Coach of the Year. However, Staten Island would not go down without a fight.

Defender Rebecca D’Aloia fired a shot that bounced off the post before midfielder Lauren Smith took the rebound and rocketed a shot that eased the bleeding for the Dolphins at the 67:17 mark. Staten Island wasn’t able to use this momentum to build a comeback, however. The Blue Jays would emerge victorious in a 4-1 effort.

Hopkins dominated the shot totals, totaling 29 shots compared to Staten Island’s 4. The Dolphins’ goalkeeping tandem of freshmen Kaila DiBenedetto and Maraya Jones would account for five and six saves, respectively, on the Jays’ 15 shots on goal. The Blue Jays’ goalie crew of senior Bess Kitzmiller and sophomore Robyn Lipschultz combined for one save.

The Blue Jays rode the momentum from their Saturday win into Sunday, taking on the Colonels of Wilkes University.

“We knew we had to bring our highest level of intensity to the games this weekend because anything can happen in the NCAAs,” sophomore midfielder Carly Lupton-Smith said. “We knew very little about either of the teams we ended up playing, so we just came out ready to play our game and play with confidence.”

Despite a scoreless first half, there was no shortage of offense on the Hopkins side of the ball, as the Blue Jays registered nine shots, including three on goal.

The high-powered Blue Jay offense continued to bring it in the second half. The Jays finally put their first goal on the board 49:33 into the matchup. Monaco’s corner kick hit off the hands of the Colonels’ goalkeeper and bounced in Persky’s direction. Persky headed in the ball to earn a 1-0 advantage and her first goal of the season.

The one-goal lead lasted less than 10 minutes, as Lupton-Smith would lace a pass to Santangelo inside of the box. Santangelo quickly found the back of the net and recorded her 17th goal of the season.

Hopkins would go on to win 2-0, securing the shutout with a strong defensive performance that allowed the Colonels only one shot in the game and zero corner kicks.

Lupton-Smith acknowledges her gratitude for the team’s hosting privileges, specifically for the support of everyone in the stands.

“The fans that came out were so great in making the game intense, and we are so excited to get to continue our season next weekend at Williams in the Sweet 16,” Lupton-Smith said.

The Blue Jays are now 19-1-0 at home in the NCAA Tournament and 9-1-1 in second-round games. Hopkins will face off against SUNY Geneseo in the Sweet 16 at Williams College on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

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