No. 21 AU men's soccer upsets No. 17 Hofstra University
In a matchup against its highest-ranked opponent this season, AU emerged victorious and held on to an NCAA Division I Top 25 ranking Friday evening. Facing No. 17 Hofstra University at Reeves Field in the first game of the Capitol Cup, sophomore forward Joel Hart secured two goals to lead the No. 21 Eagles past the previously undefeated Hofstra Pride (4-1, 0-0 CAA).
Like their blowout wins last weekend versus Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania, AU came out strong against Hofstra with an early goal in the seventh minute by Hart. The center forward tapped the ball into the net after receiving a low cross from senior defender Jordan Manley.
The rest of the first half went back and forth, with AU (6-0, 0-0 PL) pressing high at times but also occasionally looking off-balance due to an onslaught of chances from Hofstra’s attackers. Despite a shaky defense and the absence of senior captain Liam Robley in the latter part of the first half, the Eagles entered the break with a 1-0 lead. Senior goalkeeper Dylan Hobert helped the Eagles keep a clean sheet by stringing together a series of big saves toward the end of the first half.
“The early goal always helps and takes some of the pressure off,” head coach Todd West said. “The other team then has to come off maybe a little more than they want to, so those early goals are big. Dylan Hobart made an unbelievable save, he push[ed] one off the post, so it’s very close to being 1-1 at the half.”
The second half opened with similar pace and intensity, but AU capitalized on Hofstra’s high press line and doubled its lead when Hart fired a shot into the upper right corner with a pass from Robley.
“After we scored the first goal, I thought we became a little relaxed and fatigued, but we did well to finish the half 1-0 up, and we managed to continue that into the second half and get our second goal,” Hart said.
The Eagles continued their lethal pairing of high scoring and a well-disciplined back line to repel the Hofstra attacks. West said he credits his back four players and is thankful for the upgrade in attacking he has seen this year.
“Our back four is good, our back four is athletic. Liam Robley and Dale Ludwig are a handful in there together,” West said. “We were playing defensive midfielders as forwards [last year] and were very smoke and mirrors. This year I’ve got two, if not three, real target forwards, and Joel Hart with two goals proves that today.”
AU has surpassed all of its opponents this year and continued this dominant streak against Hofstra, who previously defeated No. 15 Syracuse. The Eagles face Fairleigh Dickinson University on Sunday to finish up the Capitol Cup before leaving next weekend for a tournament in New Mexico.
“Being in the Top 25 is always going to be a pressure, but you know, we just take it as another game and one game at a time,” Hart said.