Strong Defense Has Hawks Soccer Sitting PrettyHaobsh and back line compensate for offensive issues
After a crunching tackle from a John Jay defender left one of their strikers grabbing his knee in pain, the Hunter Hawks soccer team, surrounded the referee, begging for a yellow card while swinging their legs in demonstration of the tackle’s supposed malice. The referee appears uncomfortable as the shouts grew before a voice called out from behind.
“Calm down, guys. I can handle it.” The players dispersed and the game restarted.
The voice belonged to senior goalkeeper Zade Haobsh, and his statement would be an appropriate slogan for the season Hunter’s men’s soccer team is having. While goals have been hard to come by for the Hawks, who have scored only four in their last six games, Haobsh and the defense have been rock solid, giving the Hawks (who currently sit 5th in CUNYAC with two regular season games remaining) a solid foundation to repeat as CUNYAC champions.
Haobsh, a squad captain from Ridgewood, New Jersey, has been integral to their defensive prowess with his huge saves and organizational skills, and embraces his role as influential leader out of the back.
“A goalkeeper always needs to be vocal to organize the defense,” he said. “I need to try and calm my teammates down especially in response to a questionable call from the officials. Emotions play into it a lot, which is good, but yelling at the referee will only make it worse and I try to convey that. The mental aspect of the game is huge and it will carry us through the playoffs.”
When asked what the source of the team’s stingy defensive play, players spread credit around generously. “Our reputation has always been a strong defensive game and that comes from our coach,” said Haobsh. “The biggest improvement has been the increase of the commitment level. The back four has been consistent over these last few weeks so the chemistry is really kicking in and we're starting to look like the back line that won the conference last year.”
Sophomore defender Adamu Hamza added, “We have very talented individuals in the defense and our goalie has been superb all season and this is what our solid defense comes down to.”
As the regular season winds down, the CUNYAC playoffs and NCAA national tournament are certainly on the minds of the team. Coach Jose Cedeno has always acknowledged the team’s defensive strength, and is confident that the reliability of his backline makes this a team capable of playing in and winning big games.
Cedeno emphasized the need to win the final two regular season games against conference-leading Lehman College and the College of Staten Island in order to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs, and appears to have implemented this attitude well in his players.
Hamza, a fullback from Kumasi, Ghana, whose speed and experience in the wide parts of the field has been key to keeping goals out the Hunter net, states that the team is “very confident we can take full points from both the Lehman and Staten Island games.” Haobsh added that revenge could be a great motivator as Staten Island upset the Hawks in conference play last year.
Cedeno says that the team and coaching staff are working on improving the squad’s attack through both training and lineup changes. The team’s scoreless tie against John Jay featured a rotation of the striker positions between freshmen Michael Ziegler, Yong Sung Kim, and Michael Zebzda. Should Hunter find their scoring boots in the near future, CUNYAC defenses will finally have to play Hunter with the same trepidation that their offenses do, just in time for the postseason.