The Georgetown women’s soccer team (11-4-6) shocked the No. 3 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers (16-2-4) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this past weekend with a victory. After a 0-0 draw in regulation that had proved largely indecisive, the game was thrust into penalty kicks. Thanks to short moments of brilliance and grit, adjoined with some luck, the Hoyas sent the Mountaineers crashing out of the competition.
Despite the Mountaineers keeping possession for most of the match, they failed to parlay their advantage in quality into any goals. They outshot Georgetown 30-12 and had more shots on goal, as well as more corner kicks, but still failed to find the back of the net.
“I thought in the second half we definitely had better chances and created better opportunities,” said West Virginia Head Coach Nikki Izzo Brown. “Though both teams played pretty tight to the end—you could tell both teams wanted the game. Against a good team like Georgetown, you have to finish those chances, and unfortunately we didn’t tonight.”
Brown’s concerns had merit. West Virginia had excellent chances to take the lead multiple times, notably in the first few minutes, when consecutive shots slammed off the crossbar or were parried away by senior goalkeeper Emma Newins.
Despite remaining in good spirits, Georgetown Head Coach Dave Nolan was acutely aware that his team was playing second-best most of the game.
“I thought there was a 15-minute patch where we couldn’t really get out of our own half. It was probably in the middle of the first half. I thought after that, it was pretty even. Ultimately, we had the best chance to win the game with about four minutes to go, and credit to their goalkeeper for making a stop,” Nolan said. “I think our kid’s eyes just got very big. We’re happy, but we know the ball bounced our way a little bit in the penalty kick shootout tonight.”
During the penalty shootout, freshman midfielder Rachel Corboz scored the Hoyas’ first penalty kick to make it 1-0, while senior forward Jessie Clinton put the Hoyas up 2-1. Another West Virginia miss gave the Hoyas a chance to go up further, which freshman defender Taylor Pak converted to put Georgetown up 3-1. After a miss with the next penalty, senior midfielder Daphne Corboz converted the winning penalty to give Georgetown the victory.
Of particular regret for West Virginia was the decision to bring Kate Schwindel directly off the bench to miss her subsequent penalty.
“Prior to the game she went out and hit a couple, and she never misses. She wanted to take it, and I take full responsibility—I made the decision to let Kate Schwindel take that penalty kick. When you have someone like Kate who is just hammering it away, it was hard for me not to make that decision. Looking back now, maybe I would definitely not put someone in that position,” Brown said.
For Nolan, the penalty shootout was a perfect opportunity for him to outfox his counterpart. West Virginia had prepared for the possibility of penalty kicks against Georgetown, and Nolan wanted his team to be as unpredictable as possible.
“You change the order. You change maybe some of the kids who kick, and you ask some kids maybe to try and find possibly another spot they’re comfortable hitting, too. And then at the end of the day, it just comes down to nerves. It comes down to who can strike the ball cleanly, and who can deal with the situation,” Nolan said.
Nolan’s plan worked to great effect, but he was a graceful winner who clearly understood that with the euphoria of victory on penalties comes alongside the devastation of defeat.
“It’s a horrible way to lose a game, and it’s a fantastic way to win a game,” Nolan said. “We feel fortunate that we were on the good end of it tonight.”
The Hoyas are back in NCAA Tournament action this Friday at 4:30 p.m. as they take on Virginia Tech (15-0-5) at University Park, Pa.
Photo by Jennifer Costa