Hopkinton ousts top-ranked Derryfield to advance to title game

Monitor staff
Published: 11/3/2016 12:50:49 AM

LACONIA – If there was a ever a team equipped to handle the top seed in the Division III boys’ soccer tournament, the Hopkinton Hawks would be right near the top of the list.

With an experienced group unfazed by the pressures that come with the spotlight of the big stage and boasting an offense that’s proven capable of putting up goals in a hurry, the title-hungry Hawks showed exactly why games aren’t played on paper on Wednesday night at Laconia High School.

Looking to avenge a 5-1 loss to No. 1 Derryfield during the regular season, No. 5 Hopkinton took the fight to the Cougars, pulling ahead with a goal just before the half and never looking back en route to a 2-1 upset victory that knocked out the top seed and sent the Hawks back to the state championship game for the second time in three seasons.

“It feels amazing and it gives us confidence,” said Jacob Rockwood, who scored one of Hopkinton’s two goals in the win. “I wanted to get back to the finals since my sophomore year and so we all worked as a team. That was our goal . We came in here, took it game by game knowing that this was where what we wanted to get to and it feels really good to be able to execute.”

While other teams in the tournament may have been in over their heads against top-seeded Derryfield, the Hawks are not like other teams.

“These seniors as freshmen won the championship and then their sophomore year, they lost a 0-0 championship game and lost in a shootout. Last year, we lost in these semifinals at this same field so these guys have been here before,” Hopkinton Coach Scott Zipke said. “We thought we could fix some mental errors and tactically be smarter defensively, not let guys run at us sort of thing, and I think it made a difference.”

Despite two offenses on the field that had combined for 22 goals through the first two rounds of the tournament, the game was scoreless for nearly the entire first half.

Derryfield appeared headed for a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute, but uncharacteristically couldn’t finish off a handful of quality scoring chances. Oliver Simon kicked off the flurry of shots for the Cougars, but missed wide right before Jeff Pratt received a look off a rebound chance minutes later and came up empty.

Pratt then made another move into the box with 13:40 to play, slipping past two Hopkinton defenders and tapping it towards a vacated goal, but Hopkinton’s Derek West  stepped up for the defensive save, kicking the ball out just as it reached the goal line.

Add two balls off the crossbar and one off the post and that’s the kind of evening Derryfield had.

“They blew us up,” Zipke said. “They just missed some chances, I mean those two kids had amazing hits that happened to hit the crossbar and there were some other ones that absolutely should have hit the back of the net. It was just dumb luck they didn’t go in.”

Hopkinton didn’t seem to mind, instead adding to Derryfield’s frustration with a tally just before the first-half whistle when Max Rossignol put home a hard shot into the lower left corner of the net for the lead.

After the Cougars again missed out on a scoring chance five minutes into the second half, Rockwood and the Hawks made them pay with the shot of the game: lined up to the goal from about 30 yards out, Rockwood dropped his foot and unleashed a perfect strike over the head of Derryfield keeper Tommy Cissel, sending the Hopkinton crowd into a frenzy and giving the Hawks a 2-0 advantage.

The goal from distance was not a decision Rockwood said he made in the heat of the moment.

“I told the guys early in the game that I was looking to shoot from a little farther out often to kind of take the pressure of the other guys and put some pressure on their goalie,” Rockwood said. “So I took a touch, I looked up and saw some space and I just hit it. When I looked up it was just top shelf and it was such a great feeling.”

“We’ve got some bigtime players,” Zipke added. “Jacob Rockwood is the real deal and that was a real-deal goal that was scored by a bigtime player.”

From there, it became a game of trying to hold on. 

Derryfield inched closer in the 61st minute when Nate Kelsey cashed in on a rebound chance to trim the deficit to one goal, but the Cougars could never hit that one timely shot and Hopkinton, despite a few scares, hung on down the stretch to stay alive.

The final test for the Hawks will take place on Saturday against No. 2 Stevens in the championship at Southern New Hampshire University. 

“These guys know what it feels like, they know about the butterflies and they know what they need to do mentally to have a good game,” Zipke said. “I think they’re excited to be there, but it’s certainly not the type of group so say hey, let’s just go out Saturday and see what happens. They want to win on Saturday.”

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