The 11th-ranked Hopkins field hockey team clinched the program’s first Centennial Conference Championship title in 15 years on Sunday. The Blue Jays headed up to Lancaster, Pa., where the 10th-ranked Franklin & Marshall College Diplomats hosted the Conference Tournament.
The Jays received their first Conference loss against the Diplomats on Oct. 27. Although both teams ended their seasons with a record of 9-1, since F&M won the head-to-head matchup, Hopkins just barely lost out the opportunity to host the Tournament.
However, playing on a different field did not matter for the Blue Jays, as they bring their best game wherever they play. This was evident in both Tournament games, the first being the semifinals against the 19th-ranked Ursinus College Bears.
After a scoreless first half, the Jays finally found the back of the net in the 66th minute, as freshman forward Izzy Thompson scored the first and only goal of the game. With the goal, Thompson broke the record for most goals scored by a freshman in one season with 12, which was previously set at 11 goals in 1990. Her 12 goals are the most any player has scored in one season since 2013.
The semifinal victory sent Hopkins to the Centennial Conference Championship game, the 10th Championship game the Blue Jays have reached in program history. Franklin & Marshall also won its semifinal game, making it a rematch of not only the regular season matchup, but also last year’s Championship game.
Using its two most recent losses against the Diplomats as fire, Hopkins, who came into the Tournament as the second seed, defeated the top-seeded Diplomats to bring home the trophy Sunday afternoon. However, the victory was not easy, as the teams went through 70 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime with the score reading 0-0.
The game headed into an intense shootout. The Blue Jays barely edged the Diplomats 3-1 in penalty strokes to win the program’s first Centennial Conference Championship since 2003.
After back-and-forth goals and misses in the first few rounds of the shootout, it was sophomore forward Michaela Corvi who converted her shot into a goal in the fifth and final round of penalty strokes.
Head coach Jane Wells commented on how last week’s loss to Franklin & Marshall gave the team a new wave of motivation as they headed to Lancaster, Pa. for the Conference Tournament.
“The loss last week helped us refocus and find a new drive and energy. We had a really great week of practice and the team did a really great job of preparing for this weekend. F&M and Ursinus both played a really great game, kudos to all three goalkeepers who played outstanding,” Wells said.
Senior midfielder Grace Hillman was acknowledged as the Centennial Conference Tournament MVP and makes a mark in program history, as she is the first Blue Jay to receive this honor. She was also honored in the Centennial Conference end of the year awards, winning Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight year. She was also named to the first-team All-Centennial Conference team. In addition to Hillman, junior midfielder Katie McErlean was also named to first-team All-Conference.
Hillman and McErlean are just two forces in the team’s upperclassmen leadership, which has helped transform the program into one of commitment and hard work. Wells also commented on the team’s dynamic and culture.
“The players have worked really hard and made a lot of adjustments both on the field and culturally, which helps us compete at the highest level. The strong leadership we have as well as great freshmen energy have really come together to help us this season,“ Wells said.
Winning the Conference title means that Hopkins has earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Due to their impressive record and high ranking, the Blue Jays have also received a first-round bye and will play the winner of Susquehanna University and Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Jays will travel to host site Messiah College, with their second-round game taking place on Saturday, Nov. 10.