Tiger Soccer Fights for Playoff Berth

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Mason Watkins’15, Sports Editor

Excluding the previously covered game against Lynchburg, the past six games have been a roller coaster ride for the Hampden-Sydney soccer team. With playoff berths being handed out to the top ODAC teams already, coming up with victories has been of increasingly profound importance. In all, the six games have seen the Tigers defeat Emory & Henry, Eastern Mennonite, and Bridgewater, lose to Virginia Wesleyan and top-of-table Randolph, and tie rivals Randolph-Macon.

The first game had the Wasps of Emory & Henry travel to the Hill on Family Weekend, Friday, October 4th, to compete in, what would become, the biggest blowout of the season, 6-0. Scoring was the name of the game for the Tigers as they managed to knock in three goals in both halves. Junior defender Davis Carter started the tally when he tapped in senior midfielder Bryan Talbert’s corner kick in the 23rd minute. Talbert, putting forth the effort necessary as a captain of the team, was rewarded in the 37th minute when he found himself on the receiving end of sophomore midfielder Costin Gregory’s pass and put it in the net. Sophomore forward Leo Kowalski scored with less than two minutes remaining in the half, making it 3-0 going into the break. Even with the home crowd already cheering it as a victory, the Tigers were not through with the Wasps. Carter started the ball rolling again in the 72nd minute when he scored off of an assist from sophomore defender Josiah Fleming. Freshman midfielder Kurt Anderson made it 5-0 in the 78th minute. To top off the hectic night, freshman forward Bryce Jones got in on the action in the 86th minute, making it 6-0. 6-0 is the highest scoring difference in a game for the Tigers since 2011’s 8-0 win over Berkley (NJ).

The Randolph College game, which was held on Wednesday, October 9th, was an upsetting one for the Hampden-Sydney soccer team. The 3-1 loss against the then undefeated team was a chance to see who would step up to the plate in a desperate time of need, especially after freshman goalkeeper standout Cameron McFarlane was sent out of the game with a red card, leaving the Tigers with 10 men. The Rooneys managed to score three consecutive goals throughout the game. Only in the final six minutes of play did the Tigers find a consolation goal. Kowalski buried an unassisted goal into the net, giving some reward to the team as they traveled back from Salem, VA. Randolph, while unbeaten throughout the season thus far, lost their most recent match to Lynchburg College on October 23rd, meaning everyone now has a loss.

The Tigers traveled to Harrisonburg, VA to take on the Blue Lions of Eastern Mennonite University on Saturday, October 12th. The 2-1 victory was gratifying for the Tigers because the previous two seasons have been losses. McFarlane was forced to sit out the away game due to his red card from the previous game, meaning last season’s starter, junior Blake Carrey, found himself on the starting lineup in the net for Hampden-Sydney. It took the entire first 55 minutes, but junior forward Robert Stephens scored the first goal of the game when he broke away from EMU defenders and notched the ball past the goalkeeper. Carter linked up with Talbert again to make it 2-0 in the 81st minute. The Blue Lions scored a non-consequential goal with two minutes remaining, making the final score 2-1.

Archrivals Randolph-Macon traveled to the Hill on Wednesday, October 16th. Expectations were for a Hampden-Sydney victory, considering R-MC’s record was lagging noticeably behind the Tigers’. Due to the hype surrounding the matchup, the eventual double overtime result of a tie was anticlimactic. In 0-0 ties, the defense is always of note. Senior defenders Jackson Parker, Bo Burns, and Jason Haas headed the backfield for the Tigers, accompanied by Carter and sophomores Johnny Curran and Alex Strain. McFarlane and his defense have held every visiting team, excluding Lynchburg’s one, to scoreless contests.

An away game at Bridgewater College on Saturday, October 19th, allowed the Tigers to make a significant impact on their ODAC standings; both teams were tied with three wins and two losses. Winning 2-1 put the Tigers one win away from grabbing their ODAC Tournament berth. The Eagles dominated the first two-thirds of the game in terms of scoring, staying 1-0 up on the Tigers. It wasn’t until the 66th minute that Kowalski scored his third goal of October, tying the game 1-1. The game looked to end in another double overtime draw, but Stephens, off an assist from freshman forward Robert Kerby, scored in the second minute of overtime, giving the Tigers the victory.

The final away game of the regular season resulted in a 2-0 loss to Virginia Wesleyan on Wednesday, October 23rd. Virginia Wesleyan outshot the Tigers 19-8, with 8-2 being shots on target. Talbert put forth the most offensive pressure by shooting two shots on goal.

Despite missing out on their first chance to clinch an ODAC Tournament seat in the Virginia Wesleyan game, the Hampden-Sydney soccer team looks to try again, but this time in spectacular fashion by taking on fifth place Roanoke College on Saturday, October 26th, at 7pm for Homecoming Weekend. A victory for the Tigers will move them up to fifth, simultaneously securing the much desired ODAC Tournament spot.

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