The No. 2 Georgetown women’s soccer team (18-0-3, 8-0-1 Big East) defeated Central Connecticut (16-2-2, 8-0 Northeast) 3-1 in the NCAA Tournament first round. Three goals in the space of 11 minutes from junior forward/midfielder Paula Germino-Watnick, senior forward Amanda Carolan, and graduate student forward Kyra Carusa cancelled out senior forward Danielle Pearse’s opener for the Blue Devils, which came during an early spell of pressure.
“They came out strong. They came out not sitting in as much as I think we had expected,” junior midfielder Sarah Trissel said.
The Hoyas began against the wind, and it allowed Central Connecticut to gain an early foothold into the match. However, senior goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman wasn’t tested until the 18th minute, when Pearse created space for herself and unleashed a right-footed drive from the edge of the area. Schechtman got her hand up to push the ball wide for a corner, but the Blue Devils kept putting pressure on the tournament 1-seed, ultimately scoring two minutes later with a Pearse tap in at the back post, sending the bench, and the traveling Central Connecticut fans, into delirium.
“They just had that spell of five or seven minutes where it was corner kick, throw-in, corner kick, throw-in, scrambles, and the wind had a huge part of it,” Georgetown head coach Dave Nolan said.
The Blue Devils used the momentum to make life difficult for the Hoyas in the middle, but at the end of the half, the Hoyas created chances of their own. Senior defender Jenna Staudt played a long free kick into the box in the 42nd minute, and the knockdown fell to Carolan, who couldn’t keep her volley from six-yards out under the bar. Two minutes later, Central Connecticut freshman midfielder Roma McLaughlin went into the referee’s book for a professional foul at midfield to stop Germino-Watnick from driving at the back four.
The first half finished an even 3-3 in shots, but Georgetown looked the likelier team to score by the end of the half, and the halftime team talk from Nolan reflected that.
“We went in at half, and [Nolan] just said, ‘We are completely in this game. It’s going to just be a completely different 45 minute half, and we’re going to have to put it away in 45 minutes rather than 90 minutes,’” Carusa said.
The pressure continued for the Hoyas in the second half, and Central Connecticut senior goalkeeper Ashley Cavanaugh was called into action in the 57th minute to tip a shot from sophomore midfielder Grace Nguyen over the bar. Sophomore defender Kelly Ann Livingstone nodded a corner just wide of the post two minutes later, and in the 60th minute, the Blue Devils’ junior midfielder Yu Tachibana picked up a yellow card for delaying a Georgetown free kick.
“We’re down 1-0 at halftime, and now it’s a matter of, ‘Well, ok. How do we handle the second half?,’” Nolan said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job of being patient with the ball and trying to move the ball, and you could see as the game went on they started to get tired.”
In the 61st minute, senior forward Caitlin Farrell turned her defender and went down in the box, but referee Mark Gorak didn’t see anything wrong with the challenge and let play continue, much to the displeasure of the home crowd. It was the second time Farrell went down in the area and got nothing for it, but the Hoyas weren’t discouraged. Cavanaugh held a shot from Germino-Watnick in the 66th minute but would have no such luck four minutes later.
In the 70th minute, a cross-field, diagonal ball found Carusa on the right flank with nothing but green ahead of her after the Central Connecticut left back overcommitted in her attempt to intercept the pass. The first run dragged a defender deep, and Carusa’s cutback picked out the trailing player, Germino-Watnick. The junior calmly placed her effort to the near post, and Cavanaugh had no time to reset her feet and get the the shot. After 50 minutes behind, the Hoyas had equalized 1-1.
“Once we got that goal, they had to kind of figure out what their game plan was, and we got the second one early after that so we just put them on their heels,” Trissel said.
Central Connecticut looked to get the goal back but could only put two crosses into Schechtman’s stomach, which the goalkeeper easily handled. In the 78th minute, Carolan picked up the ball 40 yards from goal with no defender on her, and after committing the right back to her, picked out Farrell on the left. Farrell’s curler was saved by Cavanaugh, but the rebound fell back to Carolan, who made sure of her finish this time and was promptly tackled after making the score 2-1.
The Hoyas would get the insurance goal, as Farrell was taken down in the penalty area again, this time winning the penalty kick. Carusa hit the post with her effort, but the rebound fell kindly for the graduate student to seal the game with a tap in. Late in the game freshman forward Jamie Collimore became the third Blue Devil booked after a hard challenge after the whistle, but the Hoyas would win 3-1 after outshooting the Blue Devils 12-1 in the second half.
Georgetown advances to the second round, where they will face Washington State (13-5-1, 5-5-1 PAC-12), a team that began the year 10-0 and most recently beat Montana (7-9-6, 3-2-4 Big Sky) 5-1 in its first round matchup. The Cougars are a familiar opponent for Carusa, who transferred to Georgetown this year from Stanford, one of Washington State’s conference foes.
“They’re definitely a team that grinds,” Carusa said of the Cougars. “They’re a team that plays a full 90 minutes out. They’ll get stuck in on tackles, and they have some speed up top and they know how to score goals.”
Kickoff time has yet to be determined for the match, but it will take place on Friday, November 16 at Shaw Field. For updates, as well as breaking news for all of Georgetown’s sports teams, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.