By ANDREW JOHNSON
In an Oct. 31 season finale that would prove pivotal toward seeding in the Centennial Conference Playoffs, the Blue Jays men’s soccer team won a close shootout against the Washington College Shoremen.
Playing on the road against a strong opponent, the Jays and the Shoremen would exchange blows all evening in a wild, back-and-forth affair that would not be decided until the final whistle. Hopkins raced off to a quick 2-0 first half lead on a pair of strikes that were delivered within minutes of each other.
In the 18th minute, senior Andrew Park intercepted a pass and delivered a strike into the right hand corner of the net from around 25 feet out. Only four minutes later, sophomore Eric Herbert would double the Hopkins lead on an almost identical effort. However, a Shoremen goal in the 36th minute would pull Washington College closer as the squads headed to the halftime break.
Following 15 minutes of competitive stalemate, the Shoremen would break through with an equalizer in the 59th minute when junior Brian Wilkinson drove a cross into the lower left hand corner that junior keeper Bryan See was unable to corral. A cross from junior Samy Ramadane in the 70th minute would set up a strike from freshman Cole Rosenberger that would draw Hopkins in front once again at 3-2.
However, the lead for the Jays would only last for nine minutes, as the Shoremen were once again able to score an equalizer at 3-3 in the waning minutes of the game. The way in which Hopkins was able to repeatedly respond to these onslaughts showed a resiliency in the squad and an ability to regain composure.
Even after its 2-0 lead had evaporated, the team was able to pull together the plays necessary to save the game and ensure a crucial victory. In the 83rd minute of the contest, standout Ramadane stepped to the stripe to deliver a penalty kick that could give the Jays the lead in the game’s waning minutes.
The kick was blocked by the keeper but the deflection trickled out in front of the goal, and Ramadane was able to rally to the ball and send it into the back of the net, pushing Hopkins out in front, 4-3. The third lead of the night was ultimately the one that would hold, sending the Blue Jays to a pivotal victory in the final regular-season contest of the season.
Ramadane, the star who ultimately pushed Hopkins ahead for good, was quick to point to the overall success of his attacking teammates, who had tallied four goals in total on the night and constantly pressed the Shoremen defense.
“This past weekend was a great team effort, with four of our five attackers tallying a goal. We capitalized on our chances, giving us momentum to build on going into the postseason. Looking ahead, we have a strong schedule ahead of us, but we are ready to take each game as seriously as the next,” Ramadane said.
Not all went well for the Jays in the contest, however. Goalkeeper Bryan See, who tallied four saves for the Jays, noted that the team sometimes has a tendency to squander early leads.
“We have a tendency to lose our concentration after we [score] early goals. That is something we really need to avoid coming into the postseason,” See said.
The Jays remain one of the most talented teams in the Centennial Conference and will look to make noise in the Conference tournament. With the victory, the Jays improved to 10-4-3 on the season, with a 5-2-2 mark in the Centennial.
This was enough to draw Hopkins the number four seed in the Centennial tournament. They will be matched up with fifth seeded Swarthmore College Garnet.
The Jays have high expectations for the end of the season, as they have the talent necessary to make a deep run and even win the tournament.
“Our main goal is to win the conference and earn an automatic bid to the national championship. That is not something unrealistic because we have a group of talented players to do so. I believe if we can come together as a team and give everything that we got, we can really have a good run in this postseason,” See said.
While the draw for the Centennial tournament has not yet been revealed, Hopkins will battle with Swarthmore in the opening round at a date and time to be determined later.