The Jays were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Messiah.
On Saturday, the Hopkins men’s soccer team played in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against the Washington and Lee University Generals. The Blue Jays battled to pull out a victory in penalty kicks against the Generals, and moved on to the next round the next day. In a heartbreaking loss on Sunday, Hopkins had its postseason run ended after a hard-fought battle against top-ranked Messiah College.
Coming off of the regular season with a 13-4-1 record, the first round of the tournament was a long battle that pushed into double overtime. The Generals came out with aggression — three different players took shots within the first five minutes of the game. If the Jays were fazed by this boldness, they didn’t show it. Sophomore goalie Xander LeFevre saved one easily and the other two missed or were blocked.
This would prove to be the story of both teams’ efforts throughout the match. Although the Generals took 14 shots and the Jays 13, neither team could get one in. The Generals finished the game with three saves and the Jays four. This statistic would foreshadow an outstanding penalty shootout performance. In an effort that boasted representation from every class, freshman defender Tim Treinen, sophomore midfielder Liam Creedon, senior defender Cole Rosenberger and junior defender Connor Jacobs all overcame Washington and Lee goalie Michael Nyc to make their shots. LeFevre successfully saved two shots from the Generals, tilting the tie in favor of the Jays and taking them to the next round of the Tournament.
Senior forward Sebastian Salathe described it as one of the best moments of the season.
“Not just winning, but that fact that it was in PKs was great. The senior class had lost three penalty shootouts in Conference matches and in NCAAs, so the win also broke the streak of being unsuccessful in penalty shootouts,” Salathe said.
In the second round of the Tournament, Hopkins soccer looked to settle the score with Messiah.
Earlier in the season, the Jays had forced a tie with the Falcons.
Senior midfielder Griffin Cyphers commented on how the Jays strategized this time around.
“Our strategy against Messiah was to play our style of play that has shown to be successful throughout the season. We were confident that if we played our style of keeping the ball and being patient, we would be able to handle most teams in the country,” Cyphers said.
In this rematch, the Jays came out with even more fire, keeping the ball on Messiah’s side of the field for the first 10 minutes of the game, in which the Jays took three shots on goal. During this time, the ball only made it to the Jays’ side once — a shot by Falcon midfielder Nick West saved by LeFevre.
At 22:12, West got one by LeFevre, tallying the first Falcon goal of the game. West continued the solo effort throughout the half, taking all Falcon shots. Hopkins put up shots from a variety of players throughout the entire match, including attempts from sophomore forward Pablo Martinez, sophomore midfielder Alejandro Maclean and freshman defender Brian Lenzer. In the 51st minute, West scored once again. Though the Jays fought hard to put pressure on the Falcons, taking five shots in the second half, none found their way into the goal, ending the game 0-2.
The Blue Jays were honored with end of the year awards for their strong season, including seven Blue Jays making All-Conference teams. Junior forward Achim Younker and Rosenberger were the two Blue Jays to be named to the First Team All-Conference, and they were both also honored by being named to the Google Cloud Academic All-District Team.
Jacobs, Martinez, LeFevre, and sophomore midfielder RJ Moore were named to the Second Team All-Conference.
The NCAA tournament appearance was the 16th in program history and the fifth under current head coach Craig Appleby. In all of these appearances, Hopkins has made it to at least the second round of the tournament.
The Jays close the season with an impressive 13-5-2 record overall, but Salathe remarked that the team walked away with more than just that.
“The family, the sense of reliable friends for years to come, the stories and experiences together. That’s a bond that graduation does not break,” Salathe said.