The No. 12 Georgetown men’s soccer team (13-4-3) put in a dominant shift on Sunday afternoon, controlling the majority of possession and generating 28 shots en route to a 1-0 victory over West Virginia (14-7) in the NCAA Tournament Round of 32. Junior defender Dylan Nealis, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, scored the game-winning goal in the 87th minute.
The Hoyas started the game strong, winning possession in the midfield and using intelligent passing to open up the West Virginia defense. While Georgetown created several chances in the opening 20 minutes of play, none was better than sophomore forward Jacob Montes’ 18th-minute effort. He received the ball in the box and his first attempt on goal was deflected back to him. His second effort beat West Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Steven Tekesky and hit the far post. Georgetown junior forward Achara redirected the miss into the back of the net, but was ruled offside.
West Virginia recovered quickly and enjoyed a good spell of soccer in the coming minutes, working the right wing. But the Mountaineers struggled to get any action in the penalty area due to heavy defensive pressure from senior Peter Schropp and sophomore Sean O’Hearn. After withstanding the Mountaineers’ offensive burst, the Hoyas took control again. A well-executed counterattack led to a clear chance for graduate student midfielder Matt Ledder, but his attempt sailed high before he was whisted for offside. Shortly after, Achara shot low and hard first-time after a mishandled touch by the West Virginia back line, but the attempt missed inches wide left. Junior attacker Riley Strassner scored on a rebound in the 40th minute, but again the Hoyas were caught offside. At the half, the game remained goalless despite Georgetown outshooting the visitors 14-2.
Whereas offside calls thwarted the Hoyas in the first half, poor shooting plagued them in the second. Montes opened the half with an end-to-end solo run before passing to Achara, whose clean look hit the side netting from a tight angle. Just minutes later, Nealis beat his defender and delivered a near-perfect cross to the far post, but it was just too high for Achara to turn on frame. Then, in the 59th minute, Montes again drew the Mountaineers’ attention, freeing up senior midfielder Ethan Lochner for a shot from the left side that was directed right at Tekesky for an easy save. Strassner missed high from five yards after a flurry of Georgetown chances following a 63rd-minute set piece opportunity.
“I thought we made some pretty good decisions,” said Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese of his team’s offensive execution. “We just had some abysmal finishing. It wasn’t us not shooting, it was about us shooting it into the net.”
“Definitely an unlucky day today,” Nealis said. “We’ll definitely be shooting a lot; lots of shooting drills coming up in practice next week.”
Ledder shot across the face of the goal in the 76th minute but hit the far post, giving Georgetown 26 shots on the day with nothing to show for it. But 10 minutes later, Nealis broke the deadlock. He received an overhead pass and deftly touched the ball between two West Virginia defenders, getting himself within 12 yards of goal. Though he attempted to play a cross towards the center, it deflected off a defender and into the goal to win the game for Georgetown.
“I love getting forward,” Nealis said. “Being in the right back position, team’s often struggle handling us when there’s an extra guy forward. I was feeling pretty confident taking that guy one-v-one, so I just thought I would push it by him and see what I had.”
“You need attacking pieces and it’s no secret that our right back is one of our best attacking pieces,” Wiese said. “I thought midway through the first half through the end of the game, Nealis was almost a winger. He was really in good attacking positions and he was causing a ton of problems for them. Thank goodness we didn’t leave [the goal] to any later.”
Georgetown was without its usual starting goalkeeper, freshman Giannis Nikopolidis, who missed today’s game to fulfill international duties with the Greece U19 national team. Sophomore Ethan Koehler took his place and made five saves in the shutout, which was Georgetown’s third consecutive clean sheet.
The Hoyas will host Michigan State (12-4-4) in the Third Round on November 25. The Spartans defeated No. 4 Louisville (11-5-3) on Sunday evening with a golden goal in overtime. For live updates of that game, as well as coverage of the rest of Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.