In the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) semifinals on Friday, West Chester shut down East Stroudsburg’s number one ranked offense in a 1-0 victory. The win advances the Rams to the championship game for the first time since 2004.
Senior Kyle Hoops scored the game’s only goal with a header into the net in the thirty-third minute. The goal was set up by an assist from Brett Miller.
“It was a perfect flick by Brett Miller,” Hoops said about Miller’s assist. “He just flicked it right into the open space and laid it down perfectly for me.”
Prior to the game, Hoops was awarded the PSAC 2018 Soccer Champion Scholar for his academic and on-field achievements. Hoops was also named PSAC Defensive Player of the Year this week.
“Kyle is, without question, one of the most complete people I’ve ever coached,” Head Coach Michael Benn said. “His competitiveness and will to win is better than anyone I ever coached. He hates to lose. He reads the game well. He’s willing to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful.”
Hoops’ intelligence and intensity is what enabled him to make the play on goal. “Kyle was really aggressive,” Benn said about the goal. “He got in a great spot and was able to put it home.”
Hoops’ goal was all the Rams needed as they posted their tenth shutout of the season. The Rams limited East Stroudsburg’s high-powered attack to only three shots on goal.
“They have a lot of really dynamic players,” Hoops said. “We had to be locked in at all times because they could score at any moment in the game.”
One of Stroudsburg’s dynamic players, Eddy Enowbi, who leads the conference in shots with 77 and ranks sixth in points with 21, threatened to score multiple times in the second period. But his attempts were denied by the Rams’ number one ranked defense.
Enowbi’s shot on goal in the seventy-fourth minute was saved by goalkeeper Will Marshall. Enowbi’s other shot – with less than two minutes remaining – was blocked by senior Sami Phelps as Stroudsburg was scrambling to score with their season on the line.
“Thank God we have Sami Phelps,” Benn said.
According to Benn, it was Phelps’ savvy and experience that allowed him to make the play. Phelps has played more minutes than any player in West Chester’s program.
“If you have a younger player there, maybe he’s not in that spot at the right moment,” Benn said. “Thankfully we are experienced in the back.”
The core of West Chester’s defense is built on highly experienced players. Hoops and Phelps are seniors while goalkeeper Will Marshall is a graduate student.
“If it’s a one-goal game late, there’s always going to be scrambles at the end,” Benn said. “We’ve been in enough of those, and our boys handled it very well.”
The game was a rematch of last year’s semifinal game in which West Chester lost to East Stroudsburg on a penalty kick. West Chester was determined to make it past the semifinal round this time, which was something the Rams weren’t able to do during Benn’s tenure as head coach.
“It’s nice to have that monkey off our back,” Benn said. “But we’re not satisfied with just that. Our goal is to lift the trophy on Sunday.”
This sentiment was echoed by Hoops, who wasn’t concerned with winning individual awards. The only trophy he really wants is the championship.
“It’s definitely great to win those awards,” Hoops said. “ But honestly, all I care about is winning on Sunday. Nobody remembers those things, but what they remember is the banners over there. That’s what we are chasing.”
The PSAC championship match will be played Sunday at 1 P.M. at Rockwell field.
“It’s going to be a fantastic game on Sunday,” Benn said. “Millersville is a great team. There’s not a program I respect more than them. We got to recover quickly and get ready for a real good test.”
Brian Devine is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in journalism. BD884861@wcupa.edu