The 2013 season for Hampden-Sydney Soccer kicked off with a bang when the team traveled to Pennsylvania for a weekend double-header. Outscoring their opponents a total 8-2 across both games proved to be not enough for a clean sweep as the Tigers ended the weekend 1-1.
The first game, which took place on Friday, August 31st, brought all of the preseason-hype that had been building up. The news regarding the ODAC Preseason Poll, which had placed Hampden-Sydney at the #6 spot, a noteworthy four rungs above the rather less-impressive #10 seed, Randolph-Macon, was released the day before the season opener. The news only bolstered the team’s confidence heading into the game. The Ravens of Rosemont College were the unfortunate victims of the Tiger’s offensive onslaught that day. Junior midfielder James Lawrence surprised everyone when he opened up the scoring just 14 seconds after the starting whistle. Junior midfielder Bryan Barahona was credited with the assist. The game began to have a dreary feel to it when the Ravens were awarded a penalty kick right before the 10 minute mark, evening out the score to 1-1. The offense really began to do its work in the 37th minute when freshman midfielder Liam Hogan scored the first goal of his collegiate career off of an assist from senior forward Alex Thexton. Another freshman opened up his scoring record three minutes later; this time it was forward Robert Kerby, assisted by sophomore midfield/defender Josiah Fleming’s pass from the top of the box. Halftime didn’t slow down the Tigers at all as Lawrence recorded his first brace of the season in the 59th minute; a quick goal scored off of a rebound from junior defender Davis Carter’s attempt. The game looked to end 4-1 until the sophomore superstar, forward Leo Kowalski, brought the total to five in the 73rd minute, giving Barahona his second assist on the day. To add icing on the cake, a third freshman scored for Hampden-Sydney, an unassisted goal by forward Nathaniel Mikuleza in the 82nd minute. The entire game was everything Head Coach Josh Laux needed it to be; three freshmen started their careers on a high note and the 6-1 score was, well, 6-1.
The following day the Tigers traveled 14 miles across Pennsylvania to face off against Penn State Abington in Fort Washington, PA. The Nittany Lions demonstrated that they were a tougher nonconference opponent for the Tigers in the first half when they managed to score two goals, both assisted by their forward, Marco Papora. 37 minutes in, two after the second goal, senior defender Jason Haas was sent off with a red card, leaving the Tigers with 10 men the rest of the game. A mere two shots taken and a dismal period of three minutes where three offside calls were made left Hampden-Sydney with a disappointing first half. The Tigers found themselves down 0-2 in goals and 10-11 in players at the half. 14 minutes into the second half was the moment the gears starting moving again. Lawrence played a key role yet again when he assisted junior forward Robert Stephens. Stephens, one of the prolific scorers for Hampden-Sydney in the 2012 season, managed to chip the ball over the Nittany Lions’ goalie and have it still find its way into the net. The goal spurred the rest of the team into action and for the rest of the game the Tigers pushed strongly for the game-tying goal, accumulating six more shots and even more offside calls before the final whistle was blown. Despite the second half effort, the first half’s mistakes could not be offset, leaving the Tigers with their first loss of the season, 1-2.
The one-for-one weekend was very impressive. Freshmen opening their scoring accounts and determination at an all-time high are encouraging signs for Coach Laux’s team. The Tigers will compete in another double header this weekend. At 4pm on Friday, September 6th, Southern Virginia University will travel to Hampden-Sydney to be the targets of the Tiger’s home opener. Greensboro College will make the same travel Sunday; this game will be at 2pm.