These players had done something special, claiming the most games in the 68 seasons of Hofstra men’s soccer. The Pride’s sweet 16th win in the CAA title game gave them an automatic ticket into the NCAAs.
So here they were Thursday night at Hofstra Soccer Stadium, the 13th-ranked team in the country, in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since winning the CAA in 2015 and sixth time overall. The Pride were hosting a first-round game vs. another unseeded team, Atlantic Sun champ Lipscomb.
As it turned out, they will be sticking around for at least another round after rallying from a one-goal halftime hole.
Matthew Vowinkel, the grad striker from New Hyde Park, delivered a goal and two assists in a span of 3:51 early in the second half to help the Pride emerge with a 4-2 win.
"I thought they were the better team in the first half," Hofstra coach Richard Nuttall said. "I’m proud of how we reacted."
The 17-1-2 Pride haven’t lost since Sept. 11. They’re on a 14-0-2 run.
Now it’s on to Penn State. The 12th-seeded Nittany Lions (13-6-1), who won the Big Ten Tournament, will host the second-round game Sunday at 5 p.m.
Hofstra has never been past the second round. Could this be the year?
"Of course, they can beat Penn State," Lipscomb coach Charles Morrow said. "I don’t know if there’s a sport in the NCAA that has as much parity as there is right now in Division I soccer."
Pierce Infuso scored for the Pride in the first half, but the Bisons (12-4-2) led 2-1 at the intermission.
Hendrik Hebbeker tied it in the 50th minute against Michael Sibley off an assist from Vowinkel.
Then Ryan Carmichael found the net for his team-high 14th in the 52nd minute off another Vowinkel assist.
And then Vowinkel rocketed a shot from inside the box in the 54th minute off a Hebbeker assist. It was 4-2, just like that.
"I just think it was us winning the battle more, continuing to fight," Vowinkel said.
Now it’s time to see if they can go further than ever before.
"It comes down to us being there that day, us showing up and doing what we do best," Vowinkel said. "I think if we do that, we can beat anybody around."