The No. 7 Georgetown women’s soccer team kicks off its season on August 22 at James Madison University. Last season, the Hoyas won their second straight Big East regular season title, third straight Big East Championship, and made their second College Cup appearance in three years. The coaching staff, headed by Dave Nolan, was also named the United Soccer Coaches National Coaching Staff of the Year.
After last year’s accolades, there are considerable expectations for this team heading into 2019. Georgetown was ranked No. 7 in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll and was picked as the Big East favorite for the third year in a row. Plus, senior forward Paula Germino-Watnick and senior defender Meaghan Nally were both named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watchlist.
Each season poses unique challenges for the Blue and Gray, and this year is no different. The Hoyas will have to find new sources of goal production after losing last year’s top scorers, Kyra Carusa and Caitlin Farrell, who combined for 28 of the team’s 53 goals. Rather than focusing on who they lost, though, the players are focused on the next crop of stars they’ll develop.
“Obviously they were amazing players and it is hard to lose two of your leading scorers, but at the same time, each year we create a new identity,” graduate student forward Amanda Carolan said. “And I think Dave [Nolan] does a good job of matching our style of play to the personnel we have.”
That new identity begins with Germino-Watnick, who had eight goals and six assists last season. Germino-Watnick is a tantalizing player to watch when she is on the ball, and the Hoyas will look to play primarily through her. That said, she is more of a playmaker than a pure finisher. The Hoyas will need to rely on Carolan to produce goals. Carolan is an experienced striker who can play as a classic number nine. She scored nine goals in 2017 and added another four goals and four assists in 2018, but expect her to play an even bigger role in Georgetown’s attack this season.
“Amanda’s a very good player and especially with the way we play, she’s a very good target player,” Nolan said. “She’s probably been a little bit unselfish over the years and we’ve been trying to get her to be a little more selfish.”
Returning in midfield are experienced seniors Sarah Trissel and Carson Nizialek. Junior midfielder Grace Nguyen, who started 21 games and tallied nine assists last season, is currently unavailable due to an injury. According to Nolan, freshman midfielder Julia Leas is the most likely to take her spot.
“Right now, the freshman who’s helping a lot is Julia Leas from McLean, Virginia,” said Coach Nolan. “She’s a very, very good central midfielder.”
Sophomore midfielders Devon Lis and Maya Fernandez-Powell will begin to gain important experience in the midfield, as well.
The defense should be strong again this year, led by reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year Meaghan Nally. Joining her in the backline will be junior Kelly Ann Livingstone, sophomore Jenna Royson, and sophomore Charlie Kern, who was injured last season. Last year, the Hoya defense had 15 shutouts and allowed just 10 goals. Coach Nolan says to expect freshman Anna Leat to start in goal on Thursday.
The Hoyas will need to find their footing quickly because they have an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule. They are playing five teams that finished in the NCAA top 30 rankings last year: No. 18 NC State, No. 10 Duke, No. 13 Virginia, No. 27 Princeton, and No. 9 West Virginia.
“It’s good not only for us to measure ourselves against a good team out of our conference but also to work on the things we need to work on and be our best going into Big East Play,” said Carolan.
Strong performances against these top-ranked opponents are also vital to securing a higher seed and home-field advantage in the NCAA Tournament.
“Those non-conference games against big opponents are really big, especially later in the season when we’re hoping to think about the NCAA Tournament in terms of our RPI and everything,” said Nally.
But for now, the focus is on the season opener against James Madison University.
“We’re going to have to play JMU on Thursday, down at JMU. It’s a new coach with a new team, that’s going to be a very tough fight,” Nolan said. “I think the kids are excited. They really enjoyed the game against Penn State the other night because it was such a good game. I think they came out of that with the confidence of ‘Hey, Penn State are preseason 6, we’re preseason 7, two very good teams and [we] went toe-to-toe in the contest.’”
The Hoyas kick off the 2019 campaign at 7:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 22. Live stats and a stream are available at guhoyas.com. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for updates and game recaps throughout the women’s soccer season, as well as coverage of the rest of the school sports throughout the year.
Image Credits: John Picker/The Georgetown Voice