Jan. 4, 2007
Questions surrounded the Johns Hopkins men's soccer team entering the 2006 season with a roster that included just two seniors and 13 freshmen. In total, Hopkins boasted just six upperclassmen on its roster of 26. Those questions were quickly answered as the Blue Jays opened the season on a four-game winning streak while outscoring their opponents 14-2. Hopkins went on to have one of the best seasons in school history, finishing at 19-2-2, advancing to the NCAA Sectional Finals and earning a #7 ranking in the final NSCAA poll. The Blue Jays also captured both the regular season and tournament Centennial Conference championships.
Hopkins captured the 2006 Citrano Medical Labs Kick-off Classic with wins over Buffalo State (3-1) and Scranton (3-0) to open the season. Junior Ben McAbee, sophomores Nicholas Gauna and Nate Ford and freshman Tommy McQueen all earned All-Tournament team honors. McQueen was also named the tournament's Defensive MVP. Hopkins then hosted St. Mary's and posted its second consecutive shutout in a 4-0 win. Gauna and McAbee led the Blue Jays' effort with a goal and an assist each. The Blue Jays then faced the Misericordia Cougars in the first of back-to-back road games. Hopkins topped Misericordia 4-1, led by McAbee's two goals. The Blue Jays then suffered its first loss since October 15, 2005, falling 1-0 to the Wilkes Colonels.
That loss, which dropped the Blue Jays out of the national rankings, seemed to ignite a fire under Hopkins, as the Blue Jays went undefeated in their next 17 games, while posting a school and conference record 10 consecutive shutouts. The run began with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Frostburg on September 13. The Blue Jays then faced their rival, the #13 Muhlenberg Mules at home in their conference opener. The Mules were undefeated and had yet to surrender a goal heading into the match-up. Freshman Nick Kosik scored two goals to lead Hopkins over Muhlenberg 2-0. McAbee added his name to the NCAA record book in the Blue Jays next game. Hopkins topped Keystone 10-0, with McAbee netting his first career hat trick - in just 8:08 - the fifth fastest in Division III history. The Blue Jays moved back into the national rankings at #23 with a 7-1-0 record. Hopkins continued to roll, blanking Juniata 4-0 on the road on the strength of penalty kick goals by Gauna and McQueen.
The Blue Jays then hit the heart of their conference schedule and won four straight 1-0 decisions over McDaniel, Gettysburg, Dickinson and Haverford, propelling Hopkins to a #11 national ranking. The Blue Jays then posted wins over Swarthmore and Arcadia to move to a 14-1-0 record. The win over Arcadia was doubly sweet for Hopkins. The Knights were the last team to win at Homewood Field on October 12, 2005 - the Blue Jays had gone unbeaten in their next 16 games at home. Also, senior goalie Danny Coble broke the school and conference record for consecutive shutout minutes at 797:41.
Coble extended that streak as Hopkins blanked Ursinus 4-0 on October 21. The Blue Jays returned home to host Washington College on senior day. After honoring Coble and Trip Neil, Hopkins went on to win 2-1. The win, along with a Franklin & Marshall loss, clinched the Jays seventh regular season conference title. Coble's record shutout streak ended in the 57th minute when Josh Todd scored for the Shoremen to cut the lead to 2-1. The streak, which lasted for 1010:37 ranks as the fourth longest in NCAA Division III history. Hopkins then hit the road for the regular season finale at #19 Franklin & Marshall. The Blue Jays and the Diplomats played to a scoreless draw in 110 minutes of play.
Hopkins returned home as the number one seed and host of the 2006 Centennial Conference Tournament. The Blue Jays faced off against the Gettysburg Bullets in the semifinals and posted their second consecutive tie. McAbee put Hopkins ahead 1-0 in the 15th minute and the Blue Jays held that lead until Brad Tabor scored in the 73rd minute to tie the game. With neither team able to find the go ahead goal after two overtimes, the teams headed to a shootout. In the team's history, Hopkins had been in seven shootouts and prevailed in six of those. Gauna, sophomore Ethan Mulligan, freshman Max Venker, junior Mo Hamzeh and McQueen all converted on their kicks to advance the Blue Jays 5-3 past the Bullets. Tabor, who had tied the game for Gettysburg in regulation, sent his shot wide left in the fourth round, opening the door for Hopkins in the fifth round. McQueen buried his shot sending Hopkins to the championship game against Franklin & Marshall.
The Blue Jays and the Diplomats squared off for the second time in just eight days. Kosik scored in the 73rd minute to give Hopkins the lead, a lead that would last until Brandon Corday scored in the 81st minute to knot the score at 1-1. For the third consecutive game, Hopkins headed to overtime. Just 6:01 into the extra period, Venker scored off his own rebound to give the Blue Jays their third Centennial Tournament title. The win also automatically qualified Hopkins for the NCAA Tournament, the 10th appearance in the program's history. Venker earned his first career Centennial Conference Player of the Week honor after scoring the golden goal in the tournament final.
Hopkins earned a bye in the first round and the right to host a second round match. It was the first time since 1975 that the Blue Jays would host an NCAA Tournament game. Hopkins met Christopher Newport in the second round, after the Captains defeated Chestnut Hill in their first round match. Venker continued his golden touch, scoring twice as the Blue Jays defeated the Captains 3-1. McQueen was solid on defense, twice clearing certain goals off the goal line to keep CNU off the board. The Captains ended the Jays bid at a shutout in the 87th minute when James Nugent scored amid a scramble in the Hopkins box.
The Blue Jays traveled to Williams College for the NCAA Sectionals, where they would face the Western New England Golden Bears. For the third consecutive game, Venker found the back of the net for Hopkins. He finished a rebound off a Hamzeh shot in the 57th minute. Just minutes later, Coble made back-to-back saves, making the second while lying on his back, to keep WNEC off the board. As time ticked away, the Golden Bears took more chances trying to find the equalizer, opening things up for the Blue Jays. Hopkins capitalized in the 82nd minute when sophomore Akash Naik found the back of the net off a long ball from Gauna. Just four minutes later, McAbee gave Hopkins a three-goal cushion. Coble earned his 14th shutout of the season and the 22nd of his career. The win, the Jays 19th of the season, broke the school and conference record. Hopkins also tied the school and conference record with 14 shutouts.
Next up for Hopkins was the two-time defending NCAA Champion, the Messiah Falcons. The game featured a match-up between the two winningest coaches (win percentage) in NCAA Division III history in Hopkins' Matt Smith and Messiah's Dave Brandt. The Blue Jays had their chances early, but could not find the back of the net. Messiah finally ended the scoreless tie in the 55th minute when All-American Kai Kasiguran fired a shot past Coble. Hopkins responded right away. On a free kick, Gauna played the ball into the box, sophomore Matty Carlson flicked the ball off his head to his right where Naik headed the ball into the top left corner, tying the game at 1-1. Messiah struck again in the 83rd minute off an Andre Burckhart shot, lifting the Falcons to a 2-1 win.
The honors rolled in for the Blue Jays at the conclusion of their outstanding season. Coble, McAbee and Gauna were named First Team All-Centennial Conference, with Coble the only unanimous first team selection in the conference. Carlson and sophomore Robbie Carper were named to the Second Team and Mulligan earned an Honorable Mention nod. In addition, Carlson, Carper, Coble, Gauna, Naik, Blaine Phillips, John Scheuch and Malcolm Stewart were named to the Centennial Academic Honor Roll. Coble and McAbee earned First Team All-Region honors from both the NSCAA and D3Kicks.com. Gauna was named a Third Team All-Region selection by D3Kicks.com. Coble and McAbee were also named All-Americans by the NSCAA and D3Kicks.com.
In addition, Coble and Phillips were named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team. They became the first Hopkins men's soccer players to earn Academic All-America honors when they were named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America team.