In what would prove to be a very successful weekend in Hopkins sports, the women’s soccer team traveled to Carlisle, Pa. to take part in the Centennial Conference Championship. After a 14-2-4 regular season, the Blue Jays began their quest for their 12th Centennial title on Saturday with a match against the Haverford College Fords.
Going into the weekend, head coach Leo Weil shared his thoughts on the tournament and his team’s performance in an interview with hopkinssports.com.
“I feel really positive.... I think we’re road tested. I don’t think we’re going into the tournament thinking that it’s going to be a problem that we’re not playing at home,” Weil said. “I’ve told our kids I haven’t seen a team all season, including Messiah, that I think is better than us.”
Hopkins immediately began applying pressure to the Haverford defensive unit to start the match, with the Blue Jays taking a pair of shots and a pair of corners within the first eight minutes of play. The second corner kick would prove to be fruitful, as junior midfielder Alex Damron sent the corner across the pitch to senior midfielder Emily Maheras, who tallied her 13th goal of the season after sending a shot into the back of the Haverford net.
Haverford would attempt to counter soon after, as forward Leanne Ludwick sent a shot at the Hopkins net that was turned away by sophomore goalie Caitlin Hendricks. Not to be outdone, Damron launched a pair of shots just a few minutes later that would both be saved by Haverford’s goalie Hannah Friedrich. Both goalies would remain busy for the rest of the half, with each picking up four saves apiece, as the half came to a close with Hopkins ahead 1-0.
Just as they had done to start the first half, Hopkins would dominate the offensive stat sheet for the opening 25 minutes of the second half. During that span, five different Blue Jays would fire off seven shots, including four on goal. Friedrich remained solid in net, keeping the Fords in the game with four clutch saves to keep the score at 1-0.
Haverford would get an offensive push midway through the second half, with defender Kendra Griesman and forward Alyssa Saito each attempting to even the score. Hendricks would come up with two huge saves to keep the shutout going and the momentum in Hopkins’ corner. Those two shots would be the last gasp from the Fords as the swarming Hopkins defense kept them from recording another scoring chance. As the match concluded, Hopkins would walk away victorious 1-0 and move on to the Centennial Conference title game against the host Dickinson College Red Devils.
The matchup against Dickinson would begin as a back-and-forth affair, with both teams getting offensive chances. The Red Devils’ goalie Carli Boyer amassed a pair of saves against shots by sophomore forward Rachel Jackson and junior forward Riley O’Toole, but a foul on Dickinson gave Maheras a penalty kick in the 24th minute, which she fired past Boyer to put the Jays up 1-0.
Senior midfielder Maggie Coulson would go on to extend the lead to 2-0 when she buried a free kick into the back of the Red Devil’s cage in the 35th minute. Coulson’s goal would prove to be the final tally of the half as Hopkins went into the locker room ahead by two goals.
The second half of play would prove to be choppy, as officials handed out three yellow cards in the remaining 45 minutes, with two going to Dickinson and one going to Jackson. Offensively, both teams continued to challenge one another, with Hopkins looking to put away an insurance goal and Dickinson looking to try and cut into the Blue Jays’ lead.
Neither team would prove successful in their ventures, however, due to the strong defensive play of Hendricks and Boyer, who turned away two and three shots respectively to keep the score 2-0 in favor of Hopkins as time expired.
Maheras finished the weekend with two goals on five shots and received the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors for her performance. The victory also gave Hopkins an automatic bid in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-III Tournament, their 15th straight play, and during the selection show on Monday, Nov. 11 it was announced that the Jays will host the first and second rounds of the tournament on Homewood Field.
O’Toole was pleased with her team’s performance and believes that the team is building momentum to make some noise in the NCAA tournament.
“After a tough regular season, I think this weekend showed that we’ve learned from our mistakes and are ready to make an impressive run in the NCAA tournament,” O’Toole said in an interview with The News-Letter. “Winning a championship is always fun, and it gives the team even more confidence going into this weekend.”
Hopkins will face off against Pennsylvania State University Berks at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, with the winner taking on the victor of the Christopher Newport University and Worcester State University matchup.