Georgetown women’s soccer coach Dave Nolan has some sound advice to offer his players before their first postseason match of the year.
“Just beat Syracuse.”
Sunday’s clash isn’t just another rivalry game. It will decide if the Hoyas will return to the Big East semifinals for the first time since 2007. Only redshirt senior Ingrid Wells remains from that team. This year’s seniors will be eager to make an appearance before their careers with the team come to a close.
The Hoyas (14-5, 8-3 Big East) finished off their stellar regular season by blowing out Villanova 6-0 on Senior Day. However, after securing a first-round bye, which puts them straight through to the quarterfinals, the team’s record will count for nothing going forward. Even though the Hoyas edged the Orange earlier this season 3-1, previous success means nothing in tourney play.
“It’s knock-out stages, it’s win and move on, lose and go home,” Nolan said. “Last year we played South Florida early in the season and beat them comfortably, and then when we came to play them a second time here, they totally changed their approach. They beat us. It was a real kick to the stomach.”
Wells agrees with Nolan’s sentiment, noting their quarterfinal exits in the past two seasons, which were especially heartbreaking since both came in double overtime. She has no doubts about the team’s drive to reach the semifinals, but they both know that beating the same team twice in one season is no easy feat.
“When you’re the team that’s won the game, you generally don’t change anything,” Nolan said. “When you’re the team that’s lost the game, you now see things and you may change how you approach the second game.”
Defensively, Georgetown is remarkably similar to Syracuse, with both teams allowing 22 goals on the season. However, on the offensive end, the Hoyas have the clear edge.
“We want to continue doing what we’ve been doing all year, which is scoring goals,” Nolan said. “We’ve scored 49 goals this season, I think 32 of those are Big East play. That’s a lot of goals.”
But the Hoyas cannot simply rely on their offensive output. Defensively, the team needs to step it up if they are to survive this single-elimination tournament against some of the best all-around squads in the country.
“We’ve got to try and shut out teams to give ourselves the best chance to win,” Nolan said.
An at-large bid for the NCAA tournament is also on the line. Last year’s squad played underdog in the NCAAs all the way to the Elite Eight, where they fell to Ohio State. This year they’re more feared and more respected. As a result, they have a big target on their backs.
Their Big East melee comes first, however, and the Hoyas know not to look ahead before they have finished off their rival. The Big East is far too competitive and unpredictable to give anything but their best effort.
“I know that any team has the ability to win the Big East so it is hard to say what I expect to see,” Wells wrote in an email. “Every team is fighting for the same goal so I expect for every team to play at their best.”
With the season in the balance, the Hoyas will kickoff this Sunday at 1 p.m. on North Kehoe Field.