Last year, the women’s soccer team lost to the Swarthmore College Garnet in the finals of the Centennial Conference Playoffs on their very own Homewood Field, and the fallen Blue Jays had to watch their opponents rush the field and hold up the Championship trophy.
That memory is still fresh in the minds of the players on this team heading into their matchup.
“Our team came into this game knowing it was pretty much the most important game of the regular season. Swat has always been our rival, and we knew it would be a competitive game,“ junior midfielder Carly Lupton-Smith said.
This year, however, the fourth-ranked Jays wanted to make a statement. In a battle between the top two teams in the Centennial Conference, Hopkins defeated the 22nd-ranked Garnet 2-1 to defend the top spot in the Conference rankings.
“I think we came out so prepared and excited to bring our best, and we definitely did! Every single player on the team brought so much intensity, whether it was players cheering from the sideline or people on the field giving it their all,“ Lupton-Smith said.
Just over three minutes into the game, freshman forward Rachel Jackson passed a ball to graduate student forward Michelle Santangelo, who shot the ball past her defenders and the Garnet goalie to earn Hopkins a 1-0 lead.
The Garnet tied up the game at 37:19. Other than their tying goal, Swarthmore’s following shots had no chance against junior goalie Robyn Lipschultz, who made an impressive save against Swarthmore’s senior Marin McCoy, last year’s Centennial Conference Player of the Year, and killed the Garnet’s momentum.
The score was still 1-1 at halftime. Both sides started generating urgency to gain the second-half lead, but the Blue Jays wanted it more and pulled ahead with a goal with less than 15 minutes left in the game. Jackson earned her second assist on the day, passing the ball to senior forward Kristen Hori, who fired the ball into the back of the net.
Swarthmore lost hope as the Jays commanded the last few minutes of the game. The Garnet took their last wild shots, but the Blue Jays’ defense was too crisp for their opponent’s desperation to succeed. The final score read 2-1, as Hopkins successfully took vengeance on the reigning Centennial Conference Champions.
The Jays are on an 11-game win streak, as they remain undefeated in Centennial Conference play and inch closer to earning hosting privileges for the Conference Playoffs. Their last four games, however, have been decided by just one goal.
Hopkins has a special rivalry with the Garnet, since 18 of the games they have played against each other throughout program history have been decided by one goal or less. Despite the trend of tight scores against the two foes, the Blue Jays have come out on top 27 times.
Santangelo is now tied for most goals this season at seven, and Jackson now leads the team after her two assists with 18 total points on the season. Hori, who came back from last year’s season-ending ACL tear, now has four goals this season. And leading the team’s defensive efforts, Lipschultz made four saves last Saturday.
“Robyn especially had some awesome saves, Michelle and Kristen scored great goals and Rachel’s assists were perfect, and the back line and midfield were so solid too!” Lupton-Smith said.
Saturday’s victory over the reigning Conference Champions pushed the Jays closer to their end goal of winning the NCAA Championship.
“I think everyone on the team is committed to giving it their all at every practice and game. We all have a really competitive mindset and have set our goals on the Final Four and to be NCAA champions, so we know how much effort we need to bring,“ Lupton-Smith said.
Lupton-Smith also expressed her confidence in the team’s growth in their ability to score throughout the remainder of the season.
“The team dynamic is also just really good — people are so supportive of each others’ success,“ Lupton-Smith said. “To make it to the Final Four, I think we just need to keep building off of our momentum and hopefully score even more goals in the next few games. When we play at our best level, I see how possible it is for us to go all the way!”
The win puts the Blue Jays commandingly in first place in the Conference with three games to go. Hopkins will play home games against the Ursinus College Bears and the Gettysburg College Bullets, then close out the season on the road against the last place Franklin & Marshall College Diplomats.
The dominance in Centennial Conference play has been largely thanks to the defense. The Blue Jays have only surrendered two goals in Conference play this year, the fewest allowed by any team. They have also scored more goals against Conference opponents than any other team in the Conference, with 23 goals scored in their seven games.
The Blue Jays return to game play on Saturday, Oct. 20. They will host another Centennial Conference opponent, the Ursinus College Bears, at 3:30 p.m., as they have another opportunity to defend their undefeated record in the Conference.