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2007 Johns Hopkins Men's Soccer Season Review

Dec. 18, 2007

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The 2007 Johns Hopkins men's soccer team is the one that finally broke the odd-year curse, winning an unprecedented seventh Centennial Conference title. For the Blue Jays, it was their first Centennial title in an odd-numbered year. Their six previous titles had come in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. Hopkins also earned its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance on the way to an 18-4-0 record, just one win shy of the program record.

Hopkins opened the season as the unanimous choice by the conference's coaches to add a seventh title to the record books, earning 81 points and nine first place votes. Picked to finish second? Gettysburg. The Blue Jays would defeat the Bullets 4-1 in the Centennial Conference title game.

The Blue Jays opened their season strong, winning the Kyle Rote, Jr. Invitational by defeating the Sewanee Tigers (5-1) and the Fisk Bulldogs (8-0) at Sewanee. Senior Ben McAbee led the way against Sewanee, scoring two goals, while sophomore Evan Giles had two against Fisk. Junior Matty Carlson was named the Defensive MVP, while juniors Nick Gauna and Akash Naik and freshman Evan Kleinberg were named to the all-tournament team.

Hopkins then traveled to the Eastern Shore and pitched its second straight shutout, defeating St. Mary's College with three second-half goals. Freshman Scott Bukoski scored twice in the win with sophomore goalie Matt Mierley posting his first career shutout. The Blue Jays finally returned home to host the Citrano Medical Labs Kickoff Classic at historic Homewood Field. Hopkins would face off against Washington & Lee and DeSales in the tournament. The Blue Jays needed less then 13 minutes to take the lead on the Generals, when sophomore Chand Balfour headed home a cross from senior Mo Hamzeh. Twenty minutes later, Washington & Lee knotted the score at 1-1. That did not last long, as Naik, Gauna and Buskoski all scored in a span of just seven minutes to give the Blue Jays a 4-1 lead at the break. The win was number 226 for head coach Matt Smith, making him the winningest coach in Centennial Conference history.

The following day, Hopkins won its second tournament of the season, shutting out DeSales 2-0 to remain unbeaten at 5-0-0. It was the freshmen leading the way in the win, with Bukoski and classmate David Drake netting the two goals, while freshman goalie Neil MacLean made three saves to earn the shutout. Gauna was named the Offensive MVP, with Bukoski, McAbee and Carlson earning all-tournament honors.

Hopkins then traveled to Bridgewater and posted its second straight shutout, winning 5-0 as five different Blue Jays scored in the win. The Blue Jays remained on the road, traveling to Swarthmore to begin their Centennial Conference title defense. Hopkins blanked Swarthmore 4-0 on the strength of two goals by Drake. For the Blue Jays it was their first win at Swarthmore in six seasons.

Finally returning home, Hopkins posted a fourth consecutive shutout against visiting Philadelphia Biblical 6-0 at Homewood. Bukoski and freshman Brian Esoda led the way with a pair of goals each in the win. Just three days later, Gauna netted his first career hat trick and finished with eight points in an 8-1 win over Haverford.

Next up was rival McDaniel in Westminster. The Blue Jays did not waste time, as Drake put Hopkins on the board in just the sixth minute. The Blue Jays did not look back in an 8-2 route of the Green Terror. Giles scored two to pace the offense as seven different Blue Jays found the net in the win. The six-goal margin was the largest in the series since a 6-0 Hopkins' win at Homewood Field on November 16, 2003. In addition, the 10 total goals scored in the game are the most ever in the series.

Hopkins then faced another tough test as the Blue Jays traveled to Allentown to take on Muhlenberg. Bukoski's goal in the 49th minute broke a 1-1 draw and proved to be enough in a 2-1 win over the Mules. Hopkins had to rebound after going down 1-0 in the 17th minute and got the equalizer less than seven minutes later on a one-timer from Naik. The Blue Jays then hit a bump in the road and saw their undefeated season come to an end when the Dickinson Red Devils visited Baltimore. The Red Devils took advantage of its opportunities in a 2-1 upset of the Blue Jays, their first Centennial Conference loss at home since October 7, 1995 and just the third ever.

Hopkins responded three days later with a 7-1 win over visiting Juniata despite a 65-minute weather delay. Sophomore Max Venker and Bukoski combined for five goals in the win, as Venker produced his first career hat trick. Returning to Centennial Conference action, Drake scored two goals in just 27 seconds as Hopkins defeated Ursinus 5-0 at Homewood. The 27-second span ranks as the fifth fastest time for consecutive goals by the same player in NCAA Division III history.

The Blue Jays stepped out of conference for the final time in 2007 as the #9 York Spartans visited Homewood. Gauna converted a penalty kick in the 12th minute to give Hopkins the early lead, but York drew even in the 40th minute. Both teams had their chances in the second half and the Spartans were the ones to grab the go-ahead goal in the 77th minute. The Spartans converted a penalty kick of their own to go up 2-1. Hopkins then traveled up I-83 to take on Franklin & Marshall in a battle for first place in the Centennial Conference. The Diplomats struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute, and held the Blue Jays off the board until the 63rd minute. Bukoski drew Hopkins even when he banged home a shot off a Diplomats' defender. Just over three minutes into overtime, Ryan McGonigle played a long ball out to Brandon Corday who then beat Mierley for the golden goal.

Hopkins clinched a spot in the Centennial Conference playoffs four days later with a 2-1 win over visiting Gettysburg. Once again, the Blue Jays found themselves trailing when the Bullets' Ryan Shaffer scored in the 40th minute. It took Hopkins until the 70th minute to get on the board, thanks to a penalty kick from Bukoski. Just over five minutes later, Drake scored the go-ahead goal and that would be all the Blue Jays would need. Hopkins closed out the regular season in Chestertown against the Washington Shoremen. Balfour gave Hopkins the early lead, scoring in just the sixth minute, and then assisted on Drake's game-winner in the 53rd minute.

The win set up a showdown between second-seeded Hopkins and third-seeded Muhlenberg in the Centennial Conference semifinals. Hopkins again trailed early as Muhlenberg scored just over five minutes in. But the Blue Jays would draw even just before the break as Gauna headed home a corner kick from Venker in the 44th minute. Drake was the hero again for Hopkins, scoring the game-winner for the third consecutive game for the Blue Jays. In the 81st minute, Drake intercepted an attempted clear by the Muhlenberg sweeper, beat a second defender and then slid the ball past Mules goalie Peter Bennett to put Hopkins ahead.

Bukoski scored two goals and tallied an assist as Hopkins claimed its unprecedented seventh Centennial Conference Championship with a 4-1 win over fourth-seeded Gettysburg. Hopkins got on the board early, as Bukoski and Drake combined to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute. The Bullets struck back in the 31st minute to make it a 1-1 game at the half. Venker then came through in the 63rd minute with the eventual game-winner of a penalty kick. Bukoski would then score in the 71st and 89th minutes to seal the win. For the Blue Jays, it was their second consecutive Centennial title and first in an odd-numbered year.

Hopkins, making its 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, would host a four-team regional at Homewood Field. On Saturday night, Hopkins would take on the DeSales Bulldogs, while Franklin & Marshall would battle N.C. Wesleyan. The two winners would meet Sunday for the right to go to the Sweet 16.

The Bulldogs' defense and the play of goalie Rusty Riedmiller kept the Blue Jays offense at bay for most of the game. But a red card on DeSales' midfielder Andrew Marshall in the 90th minute opened things up for Hopkins. Carlon nearly ended the game late in the first overtime on a hard shot but Tony Aufiero cleared it off the line to keep the match scoreless. At the start of the second overtime, sophomore Nathan Wysk collected a loose ball at the top left corner of the Bulldogs' box and chipped it over the defense. Bukoski, wide open on the far post, headed it home for his team-best 20th goal of the season in the 101st minute.

The following night, Hopkins and N.C. Wesleyan squared off for the right to advance. Two goals in a six-minute span in the second half lifted #2 N.C. Wesleyan over Hopkins, 2-0. After a scoreless first period in which N.C. Wesleyan out shot Hopkins 6-3, the Bishops continued to pressure the Blue Jays to start the second. It was Daniel Jones who would break the scoreless draw in the 57th minute. From the left touchline, Jimmy Pierce crossed the ball into the Blue Jays' box where Daniel Jones headed it over the outstretched hands of Mierley.

Just over five minutes later, the Bishops were awarded a penalty kick after a Hopkins foul. Marco Kirsch stepped to the line and scored on a shot to Mierley's left. The Blue Jays had chances late in the game to get on the board. Drake nearly put one in, in the 80th minute when he blasted a shot off the crossbar. In the 83rd minute, Bishops goalie Kevin Quicker just tipped over the bar a header by McAbee to preserve the win.

The Blue Jays ended their season at 18-4-0, finishing just one win shy of the school record. In addition, Hopkins scored 81 goals on the season, just four shy of the school record of 85 set in 2002. The loss also ended the careers of McAbee and Hamzeh. McAbee finished his career with 59 points on 20 goals and 19 assists. He ranks 15th in program history in points, tied for 19th in goals and tied for 10th in assists. Hamzeh finished his career with 26 points on 10 goals and six assists.

The honors were numerous for Hopkins following the conclusion of such a successful season. Six Blue Jays earned All-Centennial honors, led by first team selections Bukoski and Carlson. Bukoski was the first JHU freshman to earn first team honors since Ryan Kitzen and Aerik Williams in 1998. Earning second team honors were Drake, Gauna, McAbee and sophomore Tommy McQueen. In addition, nine Blue Jays, including Carlson were named to the Centennial Academic Honor Roll. Joining Carlson were Hamzeh, junior Ethan Mulligan, Naik, Balfour, Giles, and sophomores Nick Kosik, Tim Markham and Rami Zeidan.

Carlson and McAbee capped their seasons with All-America honors. Carlson is the fifth player in JHU history to earn First Team honors from the NSCAA, while McAbee became just the third player in program history to repeat as an All-American. He earned second team honors from the NSCAA for the second consecutive season after earning First Team All-Mid Atlantic honors. Joining him on the All-Mid Atlantic Team were Bukoski, Carlson and Drake.

McAbee, Carlson and Hamzeh also earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors. McAbee was a first team selection, while Carlson and Hamzeh were named to the second team.