The final whistle could barely be heard over the sound of the wind at the end of Sunday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between the No. 2 seed Georgetown women’s soccer team (19-2-3, 6-1-2 Big East) and the No. 3 seed University of Virginia (15-5-2, 6-2-2 ACC). But as the game clock hit 0 and the Shaw Field scoreboard read 2-0 in favor of Georgetown, the Hoya squad lit up in celebration at having become only the second team in program history to make it to the Elite Eight round.
The game was dominated by the weather, specifically the 44 degree air and wild winds that made shooting and long- range passing difficult for the two teams, both of whom have displayed high caliber offenses this season.
“In all my years of playing and coaching … I don’t think I can ever remember a game with the wind so strong,” said head coach Dave Nolan after the game. “With that being said, I think we did a much better job of dealing with it than they did.”
Sunday’s match was very different than the last time these two teams played at Shaw Field earlier in the season when both squads combined for five goals in the first half. For the first 45 minutes of the game, the wind was in Virginia’s favor, and the Cavaliers outshot the Hoyas 2-0. Neither team managed to get on the scoreboard, however, with Virginia failing to convert while they had the wind advantage.
“Even with the wind they had, they really didn’t create much,” Nolan said. “You’d expect some set pieces, you’d expect some long runs, but they never really got anything.”
The tie was broken early in the second half, when junior midfielder Chloe Knott’s cross deflected off of a Virginia defender into her own net. The own-goal came in the 47th minute, and allowed the Hoyas a bit of breathing room as the Cavaliers continued to strike.
Even against the wind, Virginia outshot Georgetown 7-3 in the second half, and the Cavaliers had their fair share of scoring opportunities in the period. One such chance came in the 67th minute when freshman forward Alissa Gorzak had a clear breakaway for Virginia, and launched an almost- perfect shot that bounced off the left post from 12 feet out.
Minutes later, Georgetown junior midfielder Rachel Corboz doubled the Hoya lead by scoring on a set piece from 21 yards out. It was the 11th goal of the year for the Georgetown star, who was named to the First Team All-Big East squad earlier this month. Corboz struck the ball over Virginia’s wall and past senior goalkeeper Morgan Stearns into the back of the net, securing victory for the Hoyas.
“I saw the goalie cheat a little to the left, and I saw the right side open. I just wanted to kick it hard, and it went in,” Corboz said of her goal.
The final minutes of the game saw the Blue and Gray hold on to their lead, even as their head coach became increasingly frustrated with the officiating. In the 79th minute, coach Nolan was booked for a yellow card by referee John McCloskey after Nolan complained about what he thought were a series of uncalled hand balls against the Virginia team.
After the match, Nolan expressed frustration with the lack of calls, but acknowledged that they took place directly in the sun’s glare, and it would have been hard for the referee to see them. Either way, he was quick to say that “That’s not the story of the game.”
With the win, the Hoyas will advance to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history, with their first appearance occurring in 2010.
“It’s amazing,” Corboz said. “We’ve worked so hard, and we told ourselves that we had a really good chance. Now we want to win another game, we want to go to the Final Four. We want to make more history”
In the next step on the road to the Final Four, the Hoyas will face the unseeded Santa Clara Broncos (12-4-6, 6-2-1 West Coast) on Saturday, November 26th. The Broncos are coming off of a 3-0 victory over unseeded NC State (11-9-2, 4-5-1 ACC) in the Sweet Sixteen round, and a 1-0 upset victory over No. 1 seed Stanford (18-2-1, 10-1-0 Pac 12) in the tournament’s second round.
The victory over Stanford came in double overtime and shocked the soccer world, after the Cardinal’s dominant regular season, which included a 3-0 win over Georgetown on Shaw Field, one of only two losses the Hoyas suffered at home this year.
For this Georgetown team, motivation is high looking forward to next Saturday’s game. The 2016 season has already been a year filled with history, but the team constantly has its eyes trained further on the next goal. With a win on Saturday, the Hoyas would secure their first ever Final Four appearance, finalizing this year as the greatest season in program history. Regardless of the outcome, the quarterfinal round will be the last game of the season played on Shaw Field. For the team’s seniors, it will be their last game ever played at home, giving them all the more drive to compete.
“It’s their senior year,” Nolan said, “They want to push this as far as they can.”