After a grueling three-and-a-half months, the No. 2 Georgetown women’s soccer team (21-0-3, 8-0-1 Big East) travels to Cary, N.C., to take on No. 3 North Carolina (20-3-2, 10-0 ACC) in the national semifinal. This marks the Hoyas’ second College Cup appearance in three years, and they’ll hope to improve on 2016’s trip, when they fell to the eventual national champions, USC.
“I think the older players will help the younger players understand that there’s a little bit of fanfare to [the College Cup], but when we went the first time I thought we handled ourselves quite well,” head coach Dave Nolan said. “I thought we played really well against a USC team that went on and won it, so I didn’t feel we were overawed. I didn’t think the occasion got to us.”
The Hoyas look to be peaking at the right time, with three-goal victories in the past two rounds and a red-hot front three. Senior forward Caitlin Farrell, graduate student forward Kyra Carusa, and junior forward/midfielder Paula Germino-Watnick accounted for six of the seven goals in the past two matches, as well as 36 of Georgetown’s 53 goals on the season. Farrell is one goal away from breaking the program’s single-season scoring record, Carusa has double-digit goals and assists on the year, and Germino-Watnick has terrorized defenders with her dribbling ability. All three made an All-East Region teams, with Germino-Watnick in the third team and the others in the first team.
“Our front three, I would put them up against anybody the way they’re playing right now,” Nolan said.
Two other Hoyas, junior defender Meaghan Nally and senior goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman, made the first team, anchoring a backline that has kept 15 shutouts in 24 games and conceded only nine goals on the season. Georgetown is the only team remaining that hasn’t conceded multiple goals in one match. Schechtman and Farrell were also named semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy, which is awarded to the best player of the year.
The Tar Heels have their own share of regionally recognized players, with freshman midfielder Brianna Pinto named to the All-Atlantic second team, and senior defender Julia Ashley, sophomore midfielder Taylor Otto, and sophomore forward Alessia Russo named to the first team. Russo was also elected a Hermann Trophy semifinalist, but she broke her leg in late October and was ruled out for the rest of the season. However, six other players have scored at least five goals for the Tar Heels, who have overcome the loss of their star forward by going deep into their bench.
“They play with three up top, and they typically rotate,” Nolan said. “They probably have six good forwards, each of whom play half of each half. I would imagine the minutes are pretty even, which probably explains why there are five or six forwards that all have about five or six goals.”
The Heels have the most assists in the nation, and Ashley has 10 of them while anchoring a defense that’s allowed just 14 goals. It is a backline that struggled more against higher quality teams, conceding multiple goals against the other teams in the top five. UNC most recently drew 2-2 with No. 4 UCLA (17-3-2, 9-2 Pac-12), but eventually advanced on penalties. Though the Bruins often turned the ball over in bad spots, the Tar Heels looked vulnerable when UCLA could break their initial pressure. The Tar Heels also have the advantage of playing at home, as they’ve been playing at WakeMed Soccer Park while their new stadium is built. Nolan doesn’t expect his team to be fazed, though.
“We’re going to be playing in front of maybe 10 to 12 thousand, if the weather’s nice, a lot of Carolina fans. But what a great environment. As a player, you want to play in these games,” Nolan said. “It’s a great challenge for us, but this group, nothing fazes them. Nothing has fazed them all year.”
Kickoff for the match is at 5:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPNU. For live coverage of the match, as well as the rest of the sports teams on Georgetown’s campus, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.