This weekend, the women’s soccer team hosted the Centennial Conference playoffs, where the top five regular season teams faced off in a single elimination tournament to determine who would win the Conference and earn the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
The Blue Jays came into the tournament ranked fourth in the country and riding a 14-game winning streak, including a perfect 10-0 in regular season Conference play.
The Jays faced off against the Dickinson College Red Devils on Saturday in their first game of the tournament and quickly took the lead. Just 13 minutes in, freshman forward Rachel Jackson got the first shot of the game for either side, resulting in the first goal and a 1-0 lead for the Blue Jays.
Sophomore defender Mizuho Obayashi started off the play with a cross into the box before graduate student forward Michelle Santangelo headed the ball to Jackson, who would bury it into the back of the net.
The Blue Jays rode the momentum of Jackson’s goal straight into their next possession as they took control of the ball and scored another goal less than a minute and a half later.
This time, Santangelo took care of the goal herself — off of a corner kick from senior captain defender Toni Abate that Santangelo settled and then sent into the bottom right corner of the goal, past Dickinson’s goalie.
The Hopkins defense held steady for the next part of the first half, denying a Dickinson shot until the 31st minute. Unfortunately for the Jays, the shot would be off a free kick that would find its way to the back of the net — off the foot of junior Eryn McDonald for her first goal of the year.
The one goal would be all Dickinson could muster in the half, and the Blue Jays went into the break with a 2-1 lead.
The second half started off with a bang for Hopkins. Just over one minute into the half, junior midfielder Emily Maheras crossed in a ball that reached senior forward Kristen Hori, who flicked it to Obayashi, who buried it to give the Blue Jays an insurance goal — pushing the score to 3-1.
The Blue Jays’ defense would take over from that point on. Holding Dickinson to one shot in the entire second half, the Red Devils finished the game with a measly four shots with only two of those being on goal. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, had 16 shots throughout the game with 11 shots on goal.
With the win, Hopkins punched its ticket to the Centennial Conference Championship which was played on Sunday at Homewood Field against the Swarthmore College Garnet. The matchup was a rematch of last year’s Conference Championship game that wound up being decided in free kicks. Swarthmore won the matchup on Homewood Field last year, so the Blue Jays were looking for revenge this year.
The game did not go nearly as planned for the Jays as the team found itself behind in just the fourth minute on a goal by sophomore Lizzie King. Although the Blue Jays had several opportunities to respond, they were all shut down by either Swarthmore’s goalie or unfortunately-timed offsides calls. Meanwhile, the Garnet seemed to be capitalizing on every opportunity they got, doubling their lead in the 32nd minute on a goal by senior Marin McCoy.
Santangelo commented on the missed opportunities in the first half against Swarthmore.
“We need to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. That was a big wake up call for us,” she said.
The Blue Jays went into halftime down 2-0 but were even with Swarthmore in terms of shots for the half. The second half was more of the same. In the 50th minute, sophomore Sophia Stills extended the Garnet lead to 3-0 on the team’s first shot of the second half.
From that point on, the game was lost for the Blue Jays who surrendered another goal in the 61st minute and then a final Garnet goal off of a penalty kick in the 67th minute. In the 75th minute, with the game already in hand, sophomore midfielder Jesse Cole scored the Jays’ lone goal of the game. The goal was Cole’s first of the season.
Swarthmore would win 5-1 in the end, and Hopkins watched as they celebrated on Homewood field yet again.
Even though the tournament did not end how they were hoping, the Jays encountered some good news on Monday when the NCAA bracket was revealed. Because of their extraordinary season, Hopkins was chosen to host the first two rounds of the tournament. They will face off against the Cabrini University Cavaliers Saturday night at 5 p.m., and if they win, will continue to play the winner of Misericordia University and Rowan University on Sunday.
Junior goalie Robyn Lipschultz commented on the team’s attitude going into the NCAA playoffs.
“We are excited, confident and prepared,“ she said. “We are ready to kick off NCAA tournament play while getting to host, which is always fun! We are working hard this week to prepare for our opponents and to continue a great season.”