Soccer Gains Footing in ODAC, Defense Shows Its Strength

soccer pic

Mason Watkins ’15, Special Editor

Coming off of a tough loss to Washington & Lee, the Hampden-Sydney soccer team finished their next three games with two ties—one against St. Mary’s (MD) and the other against Lynchburg College—followed by an impressive ODAC victory over Shenandoah University. The Shenandoah game at home marked the beginning of Tiger Soccer night games, boasting crowd numbers close to 500.

The first of the three games had the Tigers traveling all the way to Maryland on September 24th to take on the Gaels of St. Mary’s in a non-conference matchup. The starting lineup saw the return of senior captain Bryan Talbert to the midfield after serving his red card suspension in the W&L game.

The scoreless draw was not without the usual 90 minutes and extra 20 minutes of action. St. Mary’s managed to record seven shots in the first half alone, forcing freshman goalkeeper Cameron McFarlane to stay on his toes. The Tigers were called for seven fouls in the first half, stopping many of their offensive possibilities. The second half ended dismally as well for Hampden-Sydney, with zero shots taken in the last 33 minutes. Both periods of overtime saw much of the same, ending in the first draw of the season for the Tigers at 0-0.

The draw against St. Mary’s must have awoken some beast for the Tigers because four days later, September 28th, an offensive onslaught was put forth against visiting Hornets of Shenandoah University. The ODAC matchup would be the second conference game of the season for Hampden-Sydney, a must win after the previous one resulted in a 2-0 loss to W&L. The lineup didn’t change from the previous game besides the introduction of senior defender Jackson Parker. The lights were on and the crowd was roaring; soccer night games had begun.

The 4-0 victory over Shenandoah did not get started as fast as one would expect, taking 39 minutes for the first goal to come through. It came off of a penalty that Talbert finished perfectly in the net. The Tigers recorded 13 shots in the first half compared to the Hornets’ one, three coming from sophomore forward Costin Gregory in the first ten minutes alone. Another forward also managed to put some pressure on Shenandoah; junior Robert Stephens, who is known for relentlessly attacking defenders for the ball, pulled off three shots of his own in the first half, one being a header in the 19th minute that a defender was forced to clear.

The Tigers waited no time regaining their dominance at the start of the second half; senior defender Bo Burns managed to find his way near the opposing box and supply a perfect cross to Stephens’ head. The finish was superb; the ball drifted up and into the far corner of the net, bringing the score to 2-0. Five minutes later, freshman superstar forward Robert Kerby recorded his third goal of the season with a solo run that culminated in his shot bouncing off the far left post and into the net.

In the 68th minute, a pair of red cards was handed out as a result of a teensy tussle between senior defender Jason Haas and the Hornets’ Scott Labenz. Normally a red card would solidify a team’s outcome, but in this case, two red cards evened the playing field, leaving 10 players on both sides.

Three goals were not enough to satisfy the Tiger offense. In the 73rd minute, Burns raised the goal tally to four off of a Kerby pass. The 4-0 score line was enough to seal the deal, giving Hampden-Sydney their first ODAC victory of the season. When asked about the teams play against Shenandoah, Burns said that “we probably played one of the best matches that we played all year.”

One of the most anticipated matches of the year came on Tuesday, October 1st, when the Fighting Hornets of Lynchburg College traveled to The Hill to be the third ODAC opponent for the Tigers. Despite ending in a draw, the game offered what it always has in the past, an intense, jaw dropping battle that only two great teams can deliver. Hampden-Sydney won the previous two matchups against the Fighting Hornets, giving both teams a reason to strive for a win.

Lynchburg started off as the forerunner, running an offensive centered formation that often saw their defenders pushed past the midfield. The pressure left weaknesses in their defense, weaknesses that were made obvious on Tiger counterattacks. One such counterattack came early on in the 7th minute; junior midfielder James Lawrence worked his way from midfield all the way to the opponent’s endline, skipping past multiple Lynchburg defenders on the way. With nowhere else to go, Lawrence rocketed a cross to the center of the box that found Kerby’s finishing shot. The cross could’ve been traveling 100mph, but Kerby, pulling off a top-ten play, still would’ve finished. The goal came out of nowhere; both the cross and the goal happened in the blink of an eye and half the home crowd still didn’t realize what had happened.

The 1-0 lead was looking to be enough until the 86th minute, when Lynchburg’s Luke Moore, a 2012 All-ODAC First Team and 2011 Rookie of the Year forward, popped a shot over McFarlane and had it continue bouncing into the Tiger’s net. The tying goal was disheartening for the home crowd and team alike.

Through both the first and second overtimes, neither team could break the stalemate. The final score of 1-1 is a good representation of the efforts both teams put forth. 18 shots for Lynchburg and 14 for Hampden-Sydney, combined with the exceptional play from both goalies, accounted for the resulting tie.

Across the three games, many players stepped up to the plate. When asked about standout players, Burns said freshman “Andrew Parker, plays defensive midfield and he’s been doing a great job filling in for a role that’s pretty, well you know, a role that an upperclassman might play. He’s taking it on well.” The defense for the Tigers has proved its worth, allowing only one goal in the three games.

The Tigers sit at a 4-3-2 overall and 1-1-1 ODAC record heading into Family Weekend. The next game will be Friday, October 4th, at 7pm against another ODAC opponent, Emory & Henry.

Senior defender Bo Burns distributes the ball in the Shenandoah game


Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s