Despite losing in the Centennial Conference Championship, the No. 8-ranked Hopkins women’s soccer team was granted the opportunity to host the first and second rounds of the Division III NCAA Tournament this past weekend.
This was the team’s 10th time hosting an NCAA Regional in 11 years and their 14th consecutive trip to the Tournament.
The Blue Jays matched up against the Cabrini College Cavaliers on Saturday in the first round.
Hopkins struck first when senior forward Kristen Hori sent a pass to graduate student forward Michelle Santangelo, which she put into the back of the net just under 19 minutes into the game.
The Jays extended their lead to 2-0 in the 27th minute, after junior forward Maddy Rocks netted one off a pass from junior midfielder Carly Lupton-Smith. A goal-less half from junior goalie Robyn Lipschultz allowed Hopkins to take a two-goal lead into halftime.
Sophomore Alex Garcés put the Cavaliers on the board in the 54th minute, sending a shot past the outstretched Lipschultz and cutting the Blue Jays’ lead to 2-1.
In the 71st minute, the Blue Jays tacked on an insurance goal, as a shot from junior midfielder Emily Maheras put Hopkins up two again.
The Jays held onto their lead, winning the game 3-1 and advancing to the second round. The score did not necessarily reflect the lopsidedness of the contest, as Hopkins outshot Cabrini 35-5.
Junior midfielder Maggie Coulson, who was recently awarded First Team All-Centennial honors, discussed the keys to the team’s first round victory.
“Against Cabrini, our team did a great job playing our style of play and not allowing the other team to dictate how we played,” she said. “We created so many opportunities because we had great movement off the ball and kept possession, plus everyone won their individual battles.”
Sophomore midfielder Katie Whittington described the experience of playing for head coach Leo Weil and commented on the team’s culture.
“I’ve never been on a team that has such a deep love of the game as this team, and I am so incredibly thankful to be a part of it,” she said. “Our coach has created such a wonderful, positive culture for us to grow and play soccer in, and it shows in how the girls treat each other on and off the field.”
In the second Regional matchup of the day, the Misericordia University Cougars defeated Rowan University, also by a score of 3-1. The Cougars extended their win streak to 11 games and earned themselves the spot as the Blue Jays’ opponent in the next round.
On Sunday, the Blue Jays and Cougars turned their matchup into a defensive battle. In the first half, Misericordia allowed only three shots, and Hopkins allowed one. The offensive efforts from both sides improved in the second half. The Blue Jays put up three shots in the span of a minute, all of which went wide.
In the 67th minute, freshman Maddy Carlo attempted the Cougars’ first shot on goal of the game, but it wasn’t enough to get past Lipschultz. The game remained scoreless over the next 20 minutes, as neither team was able to find the back of the net.
However, with a minute and seven seconds remaining, Misericordia broke the tie when freshman Kendall Pearage lifted a ball just over the hands of Lipschultz.
The Blue Jays were unable to get a shot off the rest of the way and lost in a heartbreaking 1-0. Hopkins finished the season with an 18-3 record.
Following the tough loss, Whittington reflected on the team’s development over the course of the year.
“I think the team became smarter defensively and more creative in the attack throughout the season,” she said. “From our trip to Europe to the end of the regular Conference season, this team proved time and time again that we were one of the best teams in the country.”
The Blue Jays were recognized for their season-long success, garnering several Centennial awards. Coulson, Santangelo, Maheras and senior defender Cristina Madalo all took home First Team All-Centennial honors. Lipschultz earned herself a spot on the Second Team All-Centennial.
Freshman forward Rachel Jackson was awarded Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year, after finishing second on the team with 11 goals and tied for first with five assists. For the fifth time in his tenure at Hopkins, Weil won Centennial Conference Coach of the Year, leading the team to their second consecutive undefeated Conference season.
The team matched their success on the field with their achievements in the classroom, sporting four members of the First Team Google Cloud Academic All-District: senior defender Toni Abate, Hori, Coulson and Lipschultz.
Both the offensive and defensive talent that is departing with the team’s graduating class will certainly be missed in the 2019 campaign. They’re losing 17 goals and six assists between Santangelo and Hori, as well as several key pieces of a strong back unit that only allowed 0.81 goals per game this season.
Even though the season did not end how the team had hoped, Coulson expressed her anticipation for next year.
“Overall, we had a successful season even if it ended earlier than we wanted it to,” she said. “I am extremely excited for next year and think that we can use this experience to improve next season.”
Whittington expressed a similar sentiment regarding the 2019 campaign.
“Though we are graduating a fantastic group of seniors, we will have a large majority of our key players returning along with a large group of rising underclassmen now who are extremely dedicated to the game,” she said. “I could not be more excited for next year; I love this game with all that I am, as well as this group of girls, and honestly wish our spring season was already getting started.”