After starting off with three wins, two losses and a tie in conference matchups, the GDS men’s varsity soccer team looked for a resurgence of momentum in their matchups against Sidwell Friends, Maret and Flint Hill going into the final stretch of the season and, ultimately, in preparation for the MAC tournament.
On Thursday, October 7, the Mighty Hoppers beat the less mighty Sidwell Friends Quakers in a narrow 1 to 0 victory, sweeping the season series of two games.
“Both of those were huge wins,” said sophomore Theo Burns, who characterized these two victories as defining moments for the team’s spirit and identity. Burns said that in highly competitive, tightly fought conference battles, the GDS fan section’s extra energy has motivated the team and helped them persevere.
The first half of the most recent match against Sidwell followed what senior Bruno Sullivan deemed “the story of our season.” According to Sullivan, in the first portion of the game, the team was getting outworked and easily manipulated by the opposition’s gameplan. Then, in the second half, the team became more aggressive and broke apart Sidwell’s defense, allowing Sullivan to score, navigating around two Sidwell defenders in the 85th minute.
“It was a pretty clutch goal,” Sullivan said.
New tactics have been vital in the team’s latest push in the home stretch of the regular season. Junior Leo Pivato explained that recently, the team has been cycling their offensive players in and out frequently to tire out the opposing defense and maximize the energy of their players in short spurts.
“We want to tire their defenses out,” said Pivato. “That means keeping [up] high pressure. The second they get the ball, we want to be on them.”
On Wednesday, October 13, the Mighty Hoppers took the field again, as the team faced off against another conference rival, Maret, at home. Maret was (and still is) atop the conference and the Hoppers had previously lost to them, motivating them even more. After an anticlimactic first half for the Hoppers, in which Maret went up 2-0, GDS came back by playing more aggressively and together and, to the delight of the GDS fan section, scored two goals, tying the score. With a chance to win the game, junior Aidan Fine blasted a free kick that hit the post, inches from going in, during the last minute of regular time, resulting in the final score being a tie.
“The rough start to the game, considering all the anticipation leading up to it, was crushing,” Sullivan admitted. However, he was extremely impressed by how the team kept their heads up and fought all the way back in only one half.
The Hoppers’ use of different formations, having the team play up the field while constantly applying pressure, regardless of who has possession, has helped them become more aggressive and added a new element of versatility to their squad. Head Coach Quinn Killy explained that the new strategy did not come directly from him. Earlier in the season, Killy gave the team a homework assignment to watch a professional soccer game, and senior Arthur Herman reported back to Killy that Manchester City establishes pressure right after losing the ball and throughout the match. Since their first victory against Sidwell, the team has used that strategy of being the appliers of pressure in order to avoid absorbing it.
On Monday, October 18, the team faced off against a Flint Hill team that, according to Killy, is “on a comeback.” While Killy was proud of GDS’ domination of Flint Hill on Sports Saturday, he noted Flint Hill’s team was without two of their star players. The Hoppers’ most recent match ended in a 0-0 tie.
The team hopes their focus on each game and constant adjustments will all pay off in the final conference match of the season as they face 5th-place Potomac on Thursday, October 21. A win or tie against Potomac would most likely clinch the second seed in the MAC tournament for the Hoppers, and a loss would drop them to the third seed behind St. Andrews.
Killy is optimistic that the team can end the season strong.
“Our guys are aware of where we need to improve,” Killy said. “This team is ambitious. Our goal is still to win the MAC tournament and D.C. tournament.”