The last time JMU and Hofstra met at Sentara Park, it was for the 2018 CAA Tournament crown. It ended in jubilation for the Dukes, as redshirt junior goalkeeper TJ Bush’s penalty shootout heroics gave them a conference title. Friday, the Pride returned to Harrisonburg looking for revenge, hoping to spoil the home opener.
For the majority of the match, JMU and Hofstra were locked in a scoreless, physical battle. Then, JMU’s freshman midfielder Clay Obara danced his way through Hofstra’s defense and broke the deadlock with his first collegiate goal on the way to the Dukes’ first win of the season. Senior forward Brennen Burton added a second in the 87th minute to seal a 2-0 win for JMU, putting it atop of the CAA rankings.
“After starting off in Florida and not really playing up to our standards, we needed this game,” head coach Paul Zazenski said. “Hofstra is a very good team and we grinded out a result … We defended, caught them off the counter with 15 minutes to play and got a second to secure the game.”
It took the Dukes until the 16th minute to get their first shot off when Burton had an attempt easily collected by Hofstra’s graduate student goalkeeper Alex Ashton. Soon after, Obara sprinted down the sideline and found Burton in the center of the penalty area, but his effort sailed over the crossbar.
The Pride relied on its counter-attack to create scoring opportunities. In the 21st minute, junior midfielder Petter Soelberg sent in a powerful cross that nearly turned into an own goal, but it caught the side of the net.
A physical first half ended scoreless with a combined 13 fouls. Both teams launched five shots each, but Hofstra put none on target while the Dukes had three shots on frame. The Pride finished the match having no shots on goal.
“Keeping our composure was a huge part of it,” Bush said. “That first half, there were a couple moments where we got all out of wack and they got a chance or two. We just made sure we kept our heads, weren’t screaming at each other and just tried to get behind the ball and be the first ones to the second ball.”
Hofstra came out of halftime on the front foot, pinning the Dukes in their own half and getting two shots off. JMU accumulated six fouls in the first 20 minutes, while the Pride had just one.
The Pride controlled possession for the majority of the second half but couldn’t put away any of the chances it created.
In the 75th minute, Obara received the ball in the Dukes’ own half and sprinted through the Hofstra defense. The Virginia Beach, Virginia, native calmly slotted it home, scoring a goal in his first start as a college player.
“I got on the left side and saw a gap, so I just dribbled into the right and once I saw some space, I placed it into the bottom corner,” Obara said.
Now 1-2-0 (1-0-0 CAA), JMU hosts Loyola University Maryland in the final match of the Fairfield Inn by Marriott JMU Invitational on Sunday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Sentara Park.
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more soccer coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.