The Georgetown women’s lacrosse team (9-7, 7-1 Big East) took down No. 13 Denver (12-3, 6-2 Big East), 9-7, on Saturday afternoon. It was a pair of sophomores who stole the show on Senior Day, with Denver attacker Julia Feiss scoring five goals and Georgetown attacker Morgan Ryan scoring four. Also vital to the Hoyas’ effort was sophomore midfielder Francesca Whitehurst, who notched four assists and seven draw controls, helping Georgetown dominate possession.
It took three minutes and 18 seconds for the Hoyas to take a commanding lead, with each of their points leaders; Ryan, Whitehurst, and sophomore attacker Taylor Gebhardt; scoring. Whitehurst assisted the other two goals and scored her own on a free position shot.
“We executed really well early, and we shot particularly well,” said Georgetown Head Coach Ricky Fried on the fast start. “It helped get momentum for us, it helped us force them to play faster than probably wanted to play and led to some mistakes.”
It wasn’t until after the third goal that Denver started to attack with redshirt sophomore attacker Katherine Fischer, who scored on the Pioneers’ first trip into Georgetown’s defensive half.
After junior attacker Caitlin Derry scored a second goal for Denver, the game started to settle into a rhythm. The two senior goalkeepers, Denver’s Maddy Stevenson and Georgetown’s Maddy Fisher, made crucial saves to keep their teams from conceding again, but Stevenson could do nothing about a precise shot from junior midfielder Hannah Seibel, which put Georgetown up 4-2. The goal was assisted by Gebhardt.
Less than a minute later, Whitehurst found Ryan coming up from behind the goal and the attacker made no mistake. After catching the ball on the left, she rifled into the far side netting to make the lead 5-2.
The defenses stiffened again in the next ten minutes. Another pair of excellent saves from Stevenson and Fisher denied Ryan and Denver redshirt senior midfielder Emily Conway from scoring. After a timeout, Georgetown freshman attacker Michaela Bruno found junior midfielder Georgia Tunney about twelve yards from goal. Tunney then sliced between two defenders and rifled her shot into the bottom right corner to end the scoring drought and extend the Blue and Gray’s lead to 6-2.
Fisher and Stevenson again made outstanding saves to deny Conway and Ryan, until with 37 seconds remaining in the half, Ryan turned provider for Gebhardt to score her second of the game. Stevenson made another vital save at the horn to prevent the Hoyas from scoring an eighth, but her Pioneers still went into the half facing a 7-2 deficit.
Georgetown ran wild in the first half, outshooting Denver 18-9 and winning seven of the ten draws. The Hoyas spent most of their time in the Denver half attacking because of their ability to dominate possession and held Denver to 0-4 from free position shots.
As the rain started to fall during halftime, the game looked all but decided, but Denver came out with extra intensity into the second half. While the extra intensity on defense stifled the Georgetown offense, the Pioneers were sloppy offensively, and it took nearly 10 minutes of the second half before a Feiss free position shot began the Denver comeback.
Just over a minute later, Feiss scored another free shot, putting the momentum firmly on Denver’s side. Whitehurst came bursting forward from the ensuing draw but couldn’t beat Stevenson, who stood tall and made the important save to prevent a momentum killing goal.
Conway had another opportunity to put the ball in the net, but Fisher made the save to keep the lead at three goals. The Hoyas, however, still had no luck on the offensive end, with Denver’s defense forcing the Hoyas to use the full 90 second shot clock to try to score.
Right on cue for Georgetown, Whitehurst and Ryan linked up for the third time in the game, with Ryan finding a hole in the middle of the Pioneers’ defense and completing her hat trick with 11:51 to play. At 11:05, Ryan scored her fourth, finishing a free position shot with poise to restore the lead to a five goal margin.
Ryan said that the first goal in the second half “gave us more of a confidence boost, like ‘we’re actually winning this game,’ and we used that as momentum and just didn’t let up.”
Not to be outdone, Feiss scored three goals in the next two and a half minutes, bringing the score to 9-7 with 7:40 left in the game. It was all hands on deck defensively for Georgetown, who received a stroke of luck when Conway hit the post with 5:43 remaining.
“They didn’t do anything that we didn’t expect them to do,” said Fried. “It was some balls bouncing certain ways at certain times, but at the end of the day we did enough to maintain the victory.”
The Pioneers were on the front foot for most of the final five minutes but couldn’t capitalize on their pressure. The Hoyas got a defensive stop with 2:24 left on the clock and with the margin still at two goals, Denver was fighting against both Georgetown and the clock.
The Hoyas took their time on the offensive end, and the Pioneers didn’t get the ball back until under 1:30 remained, needing to score twice. As the clock winded down, Georgetown kept Denver out of shooting range until the Pioneers had to force a shot with 30 seconds remaining.
With the ball safely in Fisher’s cradle after that shot, Georgetown needed only to pass the ball around and run the clock down after an intense final five minutes, which it comfortably did.
“Those last five minutes, you could see [senior defender] Jenny Schwalje falling in the back corner just to keep the ball alive,” said Ryan. “[The defense] really dug in and they’re the reason we won the game.”
The Hoyas entered Saturday in a three way tie for second place in the Big East with Temple (13-3, 6-2 Big East) and Denver. After the win and Temple’s loss to Florida (14-2, 8-0 Big East), the Hoyas are in sole possession of second place in the conference with only a game against the Gators left on the schedule.
“We want to make sure that we come in [to Florida] with a good plan, make sure we prepare well this week, and give ourselves a chance to win the Big East,” said Fried.
The Big East regular season title will be decided at 1:00 pm in Gainesville, Florida on April 29.
Image Credits: Georgetown Sports Information