The Hofstra University men had so many reasons to celebrate a 2021 fall season. (Photo courtesy of Hofstra)

What a magical season for the Hofstra University men.

They rode a 17-game unbeaten streak (15-0-2) to NCAA Division I tournament glory and reached the third round of the NCAA Division I tournament’s third round for the first time.

For its efforts, the Pride (18-2-2) finished the season ranked 13th in the final United Soccer Coaches poll.

Hofstra’s unforgettable 14-day run began on Nov. 14 as it captured the Colonial Athletic Association’s title with a 3-2 victory over Elon University and clinched a berth in the NCAA’s in Hempstead, N.Y. on Nov. 14.

Matthew Vowinkel’s two second-half goals helped the Pride overcame an early one-goal deficit with three consecutive scores at Hofstra Soccer Stadium. The winners extended their unbeaten streak to 15 games (13-0-2) and established program record for victories with its 16th win of the season. The Pride topped the old mark of 15, set by the 1968 squad (15-2-1).

The CAA Championship was Hofstra’s fifth and the first since 2015. Hofstra also won three consecutive CAA titles between 2004 and 2006.

Five days later, the Pride overcame a one-goal deficit by striking three times under four minutes early in the second half to register a 4-2 home victory over Lipscomb University in the first round.

Vowinkel led the comeback by setting up the equalizing and game-winning goals and converting an insurance tally. Hayes Wood gave the visitors the lead off a Tyrese Spicer assist at 13:28, but Pierce Infuso’s second goal of the season knotted things up for the Pride at 15:29, off a Storm Strongin assist.

Lipscomb again grabbed the lead on Bakary Bagayoko’s fifth goal of the season at 25:03.

The Pride exploded for the final three goals within 3:50. First, Hendrik Hebbeker equalized on his seventh goal off a Vowinkel feed at 49:34 before Vowinkel set up Ryan Carmichael’s 14th score in the 51:32. Vowinkel, off a Hebbeker assist, gave the hosts some much-needed breathing room at 53:24.

On Nov. 21, the Hofstra men recorded one of their most amazing triumphs in program history, an 8-2 victory over 12th-seeded Penn State University in the second round.

Two players finished with two goals and an assist as Hendrik Hebbeker and Roc Carles led the onslaught, while Ryan Carmichael added a goal and two assists.

The eight goals were one shy of the NCAA Division I Championship record of nine goals which has been accomplished four times, most recently by Appalachian State in 1978 against George Washington University. The goals were the highest by a Colonial Athletic Association team in NCAA Tournament history and is tied for the fifth-most by any team in the 63-year history of the NCAA Championship.

Hofstra’s season ended with a 4-0 loss to fifth-seeded University of Pittsburgh at Ambrose Urbanic Field in the third round on Nov. 27. The Pride had its 17-game unbeaten streak snapped and was shut out for only the second time this season.

Several Pride players enjoyed the spoils of a successful season.

Hebbeker was named a second team United Soccer Coaches All-American, only days after he was selected as a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy and earning United Soccer Coaches first team All-Region honors. Hebbeker was also a CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree and a Scholastic All-American honors.

He became the fifth Hofstra men’s soccer player to earn All-America honors from the national coaches association. He joined Ed Gaffney (1969), Michael Todd (2006), Shaun Foster (2012) and Joseph Holland (2015). Johannes Grahn was a freshman All-American in 2007.

Hebbeker enjoyed a tremendous season, recorded nine goals and a team-high tying 11 assists for 29 points. The Cologne, Germany native was a first team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection and helped Hofstra to an 18-2-2 record and the third round of the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time in program history. The 18 wins were a school record.

Nationally, Hebbeker was tied for fifth in assists (11) and 12th in points. He tied for second in the CAA in assists, was fourth in goals and third in points. The 11 assists are tied for the third most in a single season in program history and his 29 points are tied for ninth on the Hofstra season list.

Hebbeker will return in 2022 for a fifth year. He will enter his final campaign with 15 goals and 17 assists for 47 points. The 17 assists rank ninth all-time at Hofstra.

He was one of Hofstra five players named to the first team on the All-Atlantic Region team. Carmichael and Vowinkel, defender George O’Malley and goalkeeper Wessel Speel also were selected.

Carmichael, a sophomore from Armagh, Northern Ireland led Hofstra in scoring with 15 goals and nine assists for 39 points. He led the nation in in points and was second in goals. Carmichael also paced the CAA in goals and points.

Vowinkel, a two-time United Soccer Coaches All-Region selection after earning second team honors in 2019. The fifth-year forward from New Hyde Park, N.Y., recorded 13 goals, nine assists, and 35 points in 2021, ranking second on the team in goals and points. Vowinkel was tied for fourth in the nation in points and tied for 10th in goals. He also was second in the CAA in both categories. The Long Island native  also was the CAA Championship Most Outstanding Player after scoring four goals in two games.

O’Malley was the CAA defensive player of the year and a first team All-CAA selection after anchoring the Pride back line. The fifth-year senior tallied one goal on the season and led a defensive effort that allowed 21 goals in 22 games this season (0.94 GAA). The Pride also had nine shutouts. A native of Harrow, England, O’Malley is making his first appearance on the all-region team.

Speel, a sophomore, started all 22 games and won 18 with a 0.90 goals-against average, 72 saves, and a .783 save percentage. The Utrecht, Netherlands native led the CAA in goals against average and save percentage, and was third in saves.

And the coaching staff was rewarded as well.

Head coach Richard Nuttall, associate head coach Stephen Roche, assistant coach Shaun Foster and volunteer assistant Adam Janowski – were named the United Soccer Coaches Atlantic Region coaching staff of the year. It is Hofstra’s first staff of the year award and the first regional award for the Pride since Nuttall was named the 2005 National Soccer Coaches Association of America New York Region coach of the year.

The Hofstra men certainly has one hard act to follow in 2022 – themselves.