Two freshmen among team leaders in minutes
It’s Friday, Aug. 24, and 18-year-old Stevenson Hawkey proceeds to the locker room to dress for his first collegiate match. As he enters the locker room, he looks up and sees his No. 3 listed on a white piece of paper along with 10 other numbers meaning one thing.
“I didn’t believe it was happening,” the Pennington, N.J., native said. “I thought it was a dream. Playing against a powerhouse in my first-ever game and getting that start.”
The national powerhouse being No. 14 Boston College, a team looking to make the NCAA tournament for a sixth-straight year.
Not only did Hawkey get the start, but he also played all 90 minutes as the Quinnipiac men’s soccer team fell to the Golden Eagles 2-1.
“We gave Boston College everything we had and came up a little bit short but it was a great experience,” Hawkey said.
He has followed up his start against Boston College with 11 consecutive starts, two of which went into double overtime, something only three other Bobcats have done this season, Hawkey being the only freshman. Out of the 12 games he has played in this season, he has missed only eight minutes.
The team would have played in only one overtime game if it wasn’t for Hawkey’s heroics.
On Oct. 7, after going down 2-0 in the 52nd minute to LIU Brooklyn, the Bobcats were looking for someone to step up. Junior Simon Hinde finally got the offense going in the 70th minute with a goal to make it a 2-1 game. Quinnipiac continued to fight for the tie and, with only three minutes remaining in regulation, Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa pushed his defense onto the attacking end on a corner kick.
Robbie McLarney took the corner and found Hawkey at the top of the 18. Hawkey controlled the corner and ripped it into the top right corner of the net to tie the game up at 2 in the 88th minute.
“I kind of blacked out to be honest,” Hawkey said on scoring his first career goal in dramatic fashion. “Robbie put in a great ball but coach trusted me. We were running that play in practice and coach trusted that I could hit it. I was shanking them in practice but I knew if I had the opportunity in a game I would hit it. Robbie laid it off and I connected well and ran over to the bench and we were just going nuts. It is one of the greatest memories ever.”
Joining the leftback on the defense are Brandon Strain-Goode, Greg DiGiovine and fellow freshman Erik Panzer.
Panzer comes from Nelson, New Zealand, and plays right next to Hawkey at left center back. Panzer has played in and started 11 games for the Bobcats, missing only one match due to a head injury. In those 11 games, he has missed 16 minutes.
“Erik and Steven have been big impacts for us, and when we recruited them, we knew they were going to play as big of a role as they have now,” Da Costa said.
Panzer expressed how making the starting lineup was a goal of his from the start of preseason.
“I didn’t want to travel all this way and spend quite a bit of money to get here and sit on a bench,” Panzer said. “After preseason, I felt I had proved myself and I have on the field.”
The two players had unique journeys to joining the Bobcats.
For Hawkey, Quinnipiac wasn’t even a consideration until his mom forced him to go to a clinic. Once he saw the campus, he fell in love with it.
“After the clinic, I talked to coach Da Costa and he seemed interested,” Hawkey said. “He invited me for an official visit and I stayed with Brandon and Zach (Friedenreich) and they showed me a great time. It felt like a place I wanted to be.”
Panzer’s journey on the other hand was sparked by his play for a club team called Nelson Suburbs Canterbury United. Before playing with this team, Panzer had his mind set on playing for a college in Southern Illinois.
Panzer aimed to make the United squad for four years before finally being selected last year. Since it was a regional team, and he was the only player from his city, he had to drive five hours each week to train with the team. When he was finally selected, he was named the captain, which came as a surprise to him.
After a shaky start to the season, the team ended up winning the U-19 national championship in a game that was decided in overtime.
But more importantly was an agency who was in attendance and an email he received after the tournament asking he would be interested in playing in America.
“Within three days, I had three scholarship offers on the table which I hadn’t had previously,” Panzer said. “Within a week, I was looking at the campus and all the virtual tours and everything. I’m pretty sure I have made the right decision so far.”
With half of the starters on the defensive end being freshmen, the team has had to rebuild its chemistry.
“Our back line has great chemistry. I know if the ball is high, I know this kid Erik is going to win it and I am going to fill back in and fight for it just in case it gets over his head which it rarely does,” Hawkey said as he looked to his right at Panzer and put his hand on his shoulder. “We really know each other. We know our strengths and weaknesses. We know when to get forward and when to get back so we are on the same line which has really helped.”
Da Costa had similar comments and thinks they have adjusted well, especially recently. In the team’s last four games, it has recorded two shutouts after having none through its first eight games.
“You look at the back line and you wouldn’t think there are two freshmen back there,” Panzer said. “The size of us and how we play and how we link with everyone else, you wouldn’t think we were freshmen at all.”
The two freshmen on the back line have helped the Bobcats to a 5-5-2 record with five regular season matches remaining. Last season they finished with six wins, while they had just four in 2010.
Hawkey, who rocks long blonde hair, was given a nickname by Da Costa the very first day of training camp. When asked about if the nickname has stuck, Hawkey looked around for the inventor of the nickname in the distance and shouted, “Sunshine!”
“Coach called me it the first day and it’s seemed like its stuck. I’m being called it by the trainers and the kitchen staff too,” Hawkey said. “Random kids will just come up and say ‘hey Sunshine,’ and I’ll look at them like do I know you? But yeah, I’ll take it.”