On a dramatic Friday afternoon contest at Shaw Field, the Georgetown women’s soccer team (15-2-3, 7-2-2 Big East) defeated the DePaul Blue Demons (10-6-3, 7-2-1 Big East) in penalty kicks and advanced to the finals of the Big East Tournament.
DePaul’s sophomore forward Franny Cerny’s volley in the 18th minutes for DePaul was cancelled out by Georgetown graduate student defender Marina Paul’s 65th minute equalizer from a corner. After the teams remained deadlocked at the end of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, a winner was to be decided by penalty kicks. The first nine players scored their penalties in the shootout before DePaul’s junior defender Elizabeth Endy struck a shot off of the crossbar, sending Georgetown through to the final after 110 grueling minutes of play.
Both teams looked to assert their dominance from the opening whistle, as the first half was characterized by the intensity one would expect from a semifinal matchup. Both teams struggled to connect a long string of passes because of the intense midfield battle, an adjustment that the Hoyas made specifically from their last meeting with the Blue Demons on October 23– a 4-1 loss at Shaw Field.
One of the advantages that the Blue Demons had in their last visit to Shaw Field was the tactical positioning of the team’s forwards, who wreaked havoc in between the Georgetown’s midfield and back lines. The Blue Demons exploited gaps within the Hoyas’ defense during the team’s first meeting, and Georgetown head coach Dave Nolan made a concerted effort to neutralize the threat in this match.
“We were determined to try and step up and squeeze the field a little bit more” said Nolan.
Squeezing the field was what caught the Hoyas out of position for Cerny’s opener. A long ball off a Georgetown corner from senior defender Taylor Schissler sent Cerny off to the races. With a defender on her, she took the bouncing ball on her right foot and volleyed it into the net past a helpless sophomore goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman, giving the Blue Demons an early advantage within the opening frame.
Neither team seriously threatened beyond the goal for the rest of the first half, and DePaul went into the break with 6 shots–twice as many as Georgetown recorded. Junior goalkeeper Lauren Frasca had yet to make a save for the Blue Demons as the Hoyas left DePaul relatively untested.
The second half brought a change for the Hoyas, however, as tactical adjustments made by the coaching staff, namely starting the second half without a center forward, allowed Georgetown to assert more control over the game and pin DePaul in their own half. The Hoyas were even more dangerous from corners and junior midfielder Rachel Corboz forced Frasca into multiple saves directly from corners.
Eventually, the continued pressure paid dividends as a weak Frasca punch fell to Georgetown defender Paul, who finished in the crowd to tie the game 1-1.
“Dave was just telling us to be expecting the second ball, and it just happened to come right to me, and I did one touch it right into the goal” said Paul. “It wasn’t super clinical, but it works.”
For DePaul, senior forward Abby Reed struck the crossbar; and for Georgetown, redshirt freshman Amanda Carolan had her one on one poke attempt saved by Frasca. At 90 minutes, the score was still tied 1-1 but momentum favored the Hoyas, who created several dangerous chances within the game’s second half.
The first extra time period retained the pattern from the second half with senior forward Grace Damaska forcing a good save from Frasca before Corboz struck the near post from a corner. Reed was cautioned for her second delay of game after blocking a quick free kick in the last minute of the ten before the two teams switched sides to try to decide a winner.
The second set of ten minutes was more even and neither team had a clear-cut chance, and the game went to penalties at 1-1.
Corboz and Cerny each hit perfect penalties to start the shootout. Junior defender Taylor Pak and junior midfielder Jessie Schmidt sent DePaul sophomore goalkeeper Vanessa Nigg and Schectman the wrong way with side footed penalties to the right side of the goal to keep the shootout perfect through two penalties each. Sophomore midfielder Meghan Shaver and Schissler both took penalties to the top left corner to make the shootout 3-3. Freshman midfielder Carson Nizialek put her penalty low to the right and DePaul’s freshman defender Avery Hay scored low to the left to make the shootout 4-4 after four penalties each. Graduate student forward Crystal Thomas rifled her penalty into the top left and Endy hit the bar with DePaul’s final penalty kick.
On Sunday, Georgetown faces Marquette (12-6-2, 8-2 Big East) in the Big East Championship game. Marquette won its semifinal against St. John’s on a brace from redshirt sophomore midfielder Carrie Madden, the second of her goals being a golden goal bicycle kick in her team’s 2-1 win. The Golden Eagles were outshot 10-7 by St. John’s but defended well throughout, and were rewarded with the victory. The team’s defensive organization comes from senior defender Morgan Proffitt, who was recently awarded Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
Paul singled Proffitt out as someone that Georgetown needs to watch: “She’s a very good header of the ball, so set pieces will also be very dangerous.”
“I’ve always said for us, the road to the Big East Championship goes through Marquette” said Nolan. “They’re the team that has the most pedigree; they’re the team that has the most trophies.”
The Hoyas will be confident after a 2-0 win in Milwaukee in their only match against Marquette this year, but fatigue could play a large role in the game. “It’s probably going to come down to, maybe, a mistake, so we just hope it’s on their side,” said Nolan.
The Hoyas have a chance to win the Big East Championship on Sunday when they take on the Golden Eagles at Shaw Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 pm.