This weekend, the Hopkins men’s soccer team trekked up to Lancaster, Pa. to compete in the Centennial Conference tournament at Franklin and Marshall (F&M) College. The Jays entered the tournament off of a second-place finish in the Conference during the regular season and with a No. 3 ranking from the United Soccer Coaches poll.
Hopkins opened championship weekend against the Dickinson College Red Devils and earned a spot in the title matchup against the host F&M Diplomats after shutting out the Red Devils 2-0. After a hotly contested game between the Blue Jays and the Diplomats that saw the two teams trade goals back and forth, Hopkins would grab an advantage in the 69th minute that they wouldn’t concede, winning the match 3-2.
At the weekend’s close, the Jays returned home to Baltimore with the Centennial Conference trophy in tow, their first title win since 2009. With this victory, the Jays secured an automatic bid into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-III Tournament and are scheduled to play John Jay College in the first round at the Catholic University of America.
Junior midfielder Alejandro Maclean scored the game-winning goal for the Jays in the championship game against F&M and has been a key contributor to the Jays’ success this season. Maclean’s goal in Sunday’s championship was his fourth of the season and the 14th of his career. Maclean spoke to The News-Letter about the game, his career and the team’s ambitions moving forward into NCAA tournament play.
News-Letter: How did it feel to score the game-winner for the Conference title?
Alejandro Maclean: All the goals felt incredible. [Jake] Kooyman and [Liam] Creedon scored extremely important goals soon after us being down to help put us back in the game mentally. Once we scored the third, I just remember running the length of the field to celebrate with the rest of the team. It was an unbelievable moment but a quick one, because we had to refocus and finish off the game.
Winning the Conference title means so much, especially since we feel as though we’ve been strong enough to win the last two years. We’re definitely going to enjoy it, but now we’re focused on winning the NCAA tournament.
N-L: Sunday’s goal was the eighth game-winning goal of your career. How do you manage to get the job done under such high-pressure conditions?
AM: I think one of our strengths as a team is that we’re able to stay calm in pressure situations and not panic when we know we need a goal in the late stages of the game.
We’ve been down multiple times this season and have come back to win because we stick to our style of play. I try to keep that in mind when we need a goal. At times I’ve been at the right spot to help us get that goal, just like others have done when given the same opportunity.
N-L: How would you say you’ve grown as a player and a person through your time in the program?
AM: I have definitely grown a lot over these last couple of years. The understanding I have for the role I play on and off the field as a teammate is much clearer. Fortunately, our team has such a strong culture, and we’ve had great leadership over the years.
As our leaders have graduated, we’ve tried to maintain and continue to strengthen the culture we have on the team. I continuously try to improve as a teammate in order to be able to take on that important example my previous teammates set for me.
N-L: Looking ahead to NCAA tournament play, do you have any personal or team goals that you’re working towards?
AM: Our goal heading into the NCAA Tournament is 100 percent to win it all. Winning the Conference is amazing, but our main goal all season was to get ourselves to the point where we could compete and win the national tournament. That’s always been the number one goal, and we’re confident we have the talent and have put in the work to do so.