Soccer battles Big East chaos

October 20, 2011

For women’s soccer, there’s not another conference quite like the Big East. That was clear last weekend, when Georgetown knocked off defending national champion Notre Dame in a game categorized by typically unpredictable Big East play.

Sunday’s contest against DePaul was a solid 2-0 win for the Hoyas, bringing their record to 13-5-0 on the season and 7-3-0 in the Big East.

The 3-2 upset against Notre Dame on Friday was decided by a pair of own goals, with the decisive score coming late in the second half off the head of a Notre Dame defender. While some may see this 3-2 victory as less legitimate given the sloppy play of the Fighting Irish, the Hoyas are taking the win in stride.

“Winning in the last 13 minutes on a controversial goal, that’s fun,” senior forward Samantha Baker said. “That’s why I love playing.”

Since 1991, Georgetown soccer has called the Big East home, but the announcement that Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be leaving the conference has called the league’s future into question.

“I love the Big East Conference,” head coach Dave Nolan said. “There’s so much respect. I really don’t like to see teams leaving, it’s like friends leaving.”

Nolan has been partial to the conference for a long time, playing for Seton Hall, and now coaching the Hoyas. His familiarity with the Big East makes these changes sentimental on some level. But he is realistic about the factors that led to the shift.

“In the big picture of things, women’s soccer doesn’t make those decisions,” he said.

The Big East will sorely miss the departing members, but while it won’t be the same, the league remains imposing. Arguably the most competitive women’s soccer conference, the conference boasts the defending national champion, Notre Dame, as well as No. 5 Marquette and No. 18 West Virginia.

“We’ve obviously had good representation through Notre Dame’s national championships,” Baker said. “They’re a top program and I think the rest of the league is stepping up to meet that expectation that the Big East is going to be tough soccer. You’re not just going to be able to come in and walk over one of the top teams.”

Georgetown is making their case as one of those top teams. After reaching the Elite Eight last year, the Hoyas have a bit of a target on their back.

“I think we’ve done a good job of overcoming being the hunted team this year,” Nolan said. “We’ve still managed to get to where I hoped we would be at this point in the season. I think you’ve got to give credit to the kids for staying on task and finding ways to win games.”

Transition among the top teams is not uncommon in the Big East. Upsets are frequent, and physical games are commonplace. Nolan said that each year is different, and that anticipating anything other than the next game is futile.

Baker finds satisfaction in the difficulty of the league.

“It’s fun to be a part of the Big East,” she said. “It’s fun soccer. Yeah, you could go through some other league and be the top team in the league and go and win every game handily and not really have any competition but that’s not fun.”

Baker and the Hoyas will wrap up the regular season against Villanova this Friday. From there, the women will gear up for the Big East tournament before hopefully capping the season off with a return to the NCAAs. Kickoff for Friday’s Senior Day game is set for 2:30 p.m. on North Kehoe Field.


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