The Hopkins field hockey team experienced great success throughout the regular season and the Centennial Conference Tournament. Thus far, the NCAA Tournament has been much of the same. The team began its quest to win a National Championship this past weekend in Grantham, Pa.
The Blue Jays secured a bye for the first round of the tournament. In the second round, they faced off against the unranked Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Devils. The matchup took place on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Hopkins was able to take control early in the game on a goal from freshman forward Izzy Thompson at the 5:49 mark. Sophomore forward Michaela Corvi picked up the assist. The Blue Jays did not take their foot off the pedal, as they doubled their lead at the 14-minute mark. Freshman midfielder Abby Birk passed the ball to junior midfielder Katie McErlean, whose shot found the back of the net for the team’s second goal.
The offense continued to build upon its momentum with a third and final first period goal at the 27:49 mark. This time around, it was Corvi who scored and McErlean who recorded the assist.
The Devils took their only two shots of the period at the 30:38 and 30:45 marks, respectively. However, junior goalie Jodie Baris was able to save both and hold the score at 3-0.
Hopkins scored for the fourth time at the 68:06 mark in the second period. Senior forward Megan Ophel found freshman forward Alyse Tran, who sent the ball into the goal.
FDU-Florham took six shots during the period, none of which went for goals and two of which were saved by Baris. The Blue Jays successfully completed the shutout and picked up a 4-0 victory.
The next day, Hopkins was back on the field for the quarterfinals and took on the No. 1-ranked and undefeated Messiah College Falcons on Messiah’s home turf. The first half was a defensive struggle, and neither team was able to score.
The Blue Jays turned the momentum in their favor early in the second half. Ophel netted the game’s first goal on a pass from Birk at the 47:31 mark. However, the Falcons were able to quickly respond on goals by forward Josie Weaver at the 50:30 mark and forward/midfielder Kristen Musser at the 58:36 mark.
At the 65:59 mark, Corvi knotted up the score at two, scoring on an assist from by McErlean. The score remained 2-2 throughout the rest of regulation, as well as through the first overtime period. Finally, at the 88:40 mark, freshman midfielder Maddie Brown-Scherer passed the ball to senior midfielder Grace Hillman, who dashed Messiah’s Championship hopes and sent Hopkins to its first-ever Final Four with a game-winning goal.
After the game, Hillman discussed her historic goal and the emotions that ran through her head afterward.
“Michaela Corvi did a great job taking middle and creating a great 3 vs 2 opportunity with Maddie Brown-Scherer too. I saw the open space ahead on the left side of the field and just wanted to be there in case of a pass or a rebound,” Hillman said. “I knew time was ticking down, so I was hoping we would get a good scoring opportunity or a corner. After I scored, I was just so excited! It was such a long and tiring game and I was so relieved we didn’t have to go to a shootout.”
She also commented on the key factors that allowed the team to win a closely contested game against the top-ranked team in the country.
“The energy of the team was great; there was never a moment in the game where we let down. After Messiah coming back and scoring two quick back-to-back goals, we knew we needed to make some changes. We quickly adjusted and just kept the pressure high,” Hillman said. “Our energy, intensity and aggressive defense I think were the biggest factors to the game. Playing against such a skilled and fast team pushed us to play at our best as well. After two huge wins, the team certainly looks capable of winning the Championship.”
Hopkins is now preparing for its semifinal matchup against the Tufts University Jumbos. The winner will take on either Middlebury College or Rowan University in the Championship game. Hillman talked about the team’s mindset heading into this weekend.
“The team is excited and confident heading into the Final Four. We are ready to work hard this week to make the adjustments and changes we need in order to be successful this weekend,” Hillman said. “We have great competition; the other three teams are great programs with a lot of skilled players, and we are ready to compete against the best! It’s super exciting to be a part of the first team in the program’s history to make it to the Final Four — we are all super grateful for this opportunity.”
Hopkins and Tufts will play on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. in Manheim, Pa. The Championship game will then take place on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m.