Though the two goal margin had all but given the team victory, the final seconds on Shaw Field were tense as the No. 7 Georgetown women’s soccer team (16-2-2, 6-1-2 Big East) waited for the whistle to blow. After all, this wasn’t just any game; it was the Big East Championship game. When the whistle did blow, marking the end of their 2-0 victory over Marquette (11-6-3, 7-2-0 Big East), fans and players alike erupted in celebration, Gatorade was poured, t-shirts were handed out, and for the first time ever, the Hoyas were champions.
Georgetown dominated the game from its start, outshooting the Golden Eagles 8-1 in the first half, and completely controlling the ball with long periods of possession. In the 21st minute, senior forward Grace Damaska, who would later be named Offensive Player of the Tournament, awarded the Hoyas with the first goal of the match.
The goal was a brilliant 25-yard blast that struck the bottom of the crossbar and deflected into the net. Damaska, who leads the team in goals with 13, is rarely found as open as she was; she usually relies on getting a pass in stride in the box. This time, however, she was left open at the top, and took advantage of the opportunity.
“They weren’t really defending me,” Damaska said after the game. “If they’re going to step off of me, I’m going to shoot the ball.”
The Hoyas didn’t score again in the first half, but the game’s momentum remained in their favor. They would go on to use this momentum to control the game even more than they had in the first half, taking eight more shots and allowing none within the second frame. They once again found the back of the net when junior midfielder Chloe Knott knocked a shot off a goalpost that junior midfielder Rachel Corboz was able to finish on the rebound.
The score came from an excellent tackle by Knott and an equally impressive run into the box. Although she herself couldn’t complete the goal, Knott was thrilled to be a part of it.
While she never appeared on the stat sheet, Knott’s contribution was crucial to the Hoyas’ championship-winning effort, as the midfielder offered excellent defensive challenges and strong offensive runs in her time on the pitch. When head coach Dave Nolan pulled her with under five minutes to go in the game, she was met with a rousing ovation from the crowd.
“She just covers so much ground. She makes things happen,” Nolan said of the junior. “She was tremendous today.”
As has been the theme of the season, the Georgetown offense dominated the game, very rarely giving up possession of the ball. When they did, the Hoyas were more than equipped on the defensive side. Led by graduate student defender Marina Paul, who was named Defensive Player of the Tournament, the Georgetown defense managed to snuff out every offensive chance Marquette had. Paul and junior defender Elizabeth Wenger have formed a key duo on the Hoya backline this season, and their presence was certainly felt on Sunday. Sophomore goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman saved the one shot she faced.
The game featured performances from a number of freshmen that head coach Dave Nolan added as substitutes. Forward Paula Germino-Watnick, midfielder Carson Nizialek, and defender Meaghan Nally, all freshmen, came off the bench for the Hoyas. Nizialek and Germino-Watnick have proved very useful for the Hoya offense in the tournament. Nizialek scored in the quarterfinal round, and Germino-Watnick recorded a shot on goal in Sunday’s match.
For the Hoyas, success was sweet, especially since it came after years of waiting for the elusive title. A Big East Championship has been the Hoyas’ goal since the beginning of the season, and when that goal became a reality, the faces of the players lit up with obvious joy.
“[The team] was so hell-bent determined to finally win this thing, and take home our first championship,” Nolan said of the win.
“It feels surreal,” Damaska added. “To be at home… It’s unbelievable. It’s awesome.”
Coach Nolan, who has been a part of the program for 18 years, has now seen Georgetown rise from a program that garnered little attention to a top- 10 team and a conference champion. Still, his excitement on Sunday was for the players.
“I’m just happy for these guys. They’re a great bunch of kids,” he said.
For the Hoyas, the 2016 season will continue, this time in the NCAA tournament. While it is unclear who their opponent will be or which seed they’ll be placed at, it is clear that Georgetown is ready for the challenge.
“Really,” Knott said, “we shouldn’t be fearing anyone.”
The Hoyas earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and will play St. Francis (Pa.) in their first round match on Shaw Field. The game is scheduled for Sunday at noon.