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2004 Men's Soccer Season Review

Dec. 13, 2004

The Blue Jay men's soccer tradition of success under head coach Matt Smith continues. This year Johns Hopkins went 17-1-2 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament while rewriting the program's all-time record book. The Blue Jays finished with the best winning percentage (.900) and least number of losses in school history, and set the program records for winning streak (19), unbeaten streak (22) and best start to a season (16-0).

The story of the year was defense, as Johns Hopkins allowed just six goals, won eight 1-0 decisions and never allowed more than one goal in a game. The Blue Jays finished second in the nation in team goals against average with a 0.30 mark, the eighth best average all-time in NCAA Division III. With 14 shutouts, which tied the school record, Hopkins' shutout percentage of 0.70 was third in the nation and the second best ever by the Blue Jays.

Anchoring this stingy defense was senior first-team All-America pick Gary Kane, Jr., who started all 20 games and allowed just five goals in 1,810 minutes between the posts. His 0.25 goals against average was a school and conference record, second in the nation this season and fourth all-time for the NCAA Division III single-season record.

But he couldn't do it alone. Kane, Jr. played behind a line of defenders that included senior Chris Brown and junior Jeff Grosser, both first-team All-Centennial Conference picks and two of the three backs selected as first-team NSCAA All-Region in the Mid-Atlantic.

While the defense was their strength, the Blue Jays held their own offensively behind junior Steve Read's team-high 18 points and junior Manbaj Gill's play in the midfield. Gill, a 2004 second-team All-America selection, recorded three goals, five assists, one game-winner and the tying goal in the 88th minute against Elizabethtown in the NCAA Second Round, where Hopkins eventually advanced on penalty kicks. Read added two assists to his conference-high eight goals, and finished second in the conference in goals per game (.444) and points per game (1.00). Read and Gill were both named first-team All-Centennial Conference while Gill also earned first-team All-Region honors. Senior Doug Pollack added five goals, all game-winners, en route to second-team All-Conference honors while junior Edmond Wybaillie tallied a team-high six assists.

The Blue Jays opened their season hosting the Dr. Al Tucci Kickoff Classic, where they registered three straight shutouts over William Paterson (2-0), Grove City (1-0) and Washington and Jefferson (2-0). Sophomore Moath Hamzeh scored the game-winner against Grove City to earn the tournament's offensive MVP award while Grosser was named the defensive MVP. Juniors Traver Davis and Jeremy Jacobson along with Wybaillie and Pollack were selected to the all-tournament team.

Hopkins allowed its first goal of the season a week later but Read scored twice and sophomore Joe Pinero tallied another for a 3-1 Blue Jay win over Guilford at the JHU Alumni Invitational. The next day Hamzeh netted his second goal of the year and the Hopkins defense did the rest in a 1-0 win over Johnson and Wales. Kane, Jr., who did not allow a goal in the tournament, was named the defensive MVP while Jacobson, Read and Gill were all-tournament selections.

The 5-0 start, which included four shutouts, helped Johns Hopkins jump seven spots from No. 18 to No. 11 in the NSCAA/adidas Division III National Poll. Unranked in the preseason, the Blue Jays were also second in the Week 3 Mid-Atlantic Region Poll behind Messiah.

Johns Hopkins then kicked off its Centennial Conference season against Muhlenberg in the Blue Jays' sixth home game of the year. Hopkins was the preseason favorite to win the Centennial but the Mules, the 2003 conference champion, were right behind with just one fewer point in the poll than the Blue Jays. In a rematch of the 2003 conference final, Read scored once and Kane, Jr. let in his first goal of the season for a 1-1 score at halftime. Neither team scored in the second period but Hopkins put the game away early in overtime when junior Adam Simon scored just 29 seconds in.

The quality win pushed Johns Hopkins to a first-place regional ranking and No. 4 spot in the national poll on September 21. The Blue Jays then chalked up four straight shutouts - a 1-0 win over 2003 national champion Drew and three 2-0 wins over the Centennial's McDaniel, Dickinson and Haverford - to jump another two spots to No. 2, tying the highest Hopkins had ever been ranked in the 70-year history of the men's soccer program. Read scored two goals in the wins over McDaniel and Drew to earn the Centennial Conference Player of the Week honor.

With a 2-0 win at Haverford, the Blue Jays improved to 10-0 and tied the school record for wins to start a season, which was set in 1998. Pinero recorded a goal and an assist and Pollack added a goal in the win, which gave Hopkins its fourth conference victory and fourth straight shutout.

The shutout streak ended but the winning streak did not as Johns Hopkins traveled to Lincoln for an intense non-conference matchup, and defeated the Lions 3-1. Gill, Grosser and Pinero all scored in a game that saw 21 Lincoln fouls and was cut short after a Lion red card in the 71st minute. The 11th straight win broke the school record for best start and helped Hopkins remain at No. 2 in the national poll behind Trinity (Texas), which held the top spot since preseason.

The Blue Jays then won four 1-0 conference games over Gettysburg, Swarthmore, Ursinus and Washington to clinch the top seed in the Centennial Conference Tournament. A 2-1 win over Franklin and Marshall in its final regular-season game of the year gave Hopkins a perfect 16-0 overall record and 9-0 conference mark while extending its winning streak to 19 games dating back to the 2003 season. The undefeated regular season was the first in Blue Jay men's soccer history. Pollack was named the Centennial Conference Player of the Week after scoring the game-winning goals against both Washington and Franklin and Marshall.

Hosting the conference tournament the following weekend, Johns Hopkins met fifth-seeded Muhlenberg in a rematch of the Blue Jays' tightest game of the year. This one was even closer as neither team scored in 110 minutes of regulation and two overtimes, thus forcing penalty kicks. Fortunately Hopkins had arguably the best keeper in all of Division III along with a slew of strong and accurate shooters. Junior Stephen Walsh, Grosser and Gill all converted their penalty kicks while Kane, Jr. saved two and forced another one wide, helping the Blue Jays advance 3-0.

In the championship game a day later, Pinero scored with 15 minutes remaining and Hopkins recorded its 14th shutout of the year in a 1-0 win over McDaniel. The Blue Jays' fifth Centennial Conference Championship gave them an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament and kept them at No. 2 in the national poll for the seventh consecutive week.

Johns Hopkins received a first-round bye and met Elizabethtown, the 2-0 winner over Drew in the first round of the NCAAs, on the road in the second round. For the second time in their last three games, the Blue Jays took their opponent into penalty kicks and advanced. But before that, Elizabethtown's leading scorer Brian Healy tallied his 12th goal of the year at 63:42 and Hopkins found itself trailing for the first time all season.

With 1:15 remaining in regulation, Walsh set up Gill for a 20-yard shot that zipped past the keeper and forced the game into overtime, tied 1-1. Pollack and Walsh converted the first two Johns Hopkins penalty kicks before Elizabethtown tied it up, 2-2. Grosser, Gill and Hamzeh then nailed three straight and Kane, Jr. held off Etown for the 5-3 Hopkins advantage. The No. 2 Blue Jays would travel to No. 3 Salisbury in a state showdown the following weekend.

Tied 2-2-1 in their last five meetings, Johns Hopkins and Salisbury both entered the NCAA Sectional game with undefeated season records on the line. The Seagulls out-shot the Blue Jays 6-3 in the first half but Kane, Jr. made three early saves for a 0-0 score at the half. Salisbury's Bill Whittington, averaging just under a goal per game, scored his 16th goal of the year at 67:58, handing Johns Hopkins the 1-0 season-ending loss. The goal was just the fifth allowed by Kane, Jr. and the sixth by Hopkins in its 20 games.

Salisbury went on to defeat then-No. 15 Richard Stockton 4-2 before losing 1-0 to Messiah, the eventual NCAA Division III Champion. Johns Hopkins ended its season ranked No. 11 in the final national poll.