The No. 13 Georgetown men’s soccer team (2-0-0, Big East) emerged from Labor Day Weekend still unscathed, after a 3-0 win over Temple (0-2-0, American) at Shaw Field gave the Hoyas two wins in two games to start the season. Sophomore midfielder Sean Zawadzki, senior defender Dylan Nealis, and freshman midfielder Dante Polvara were the goalscorers Monday afternoon in a physical affair that saw five different Temple players get booked. These first two wins against Syracuse and Temple were crucial, as the Hoyas now embark on a challenging two-game West Coast trip where they’ll face No. 25 UC Irvine (0-1-1, Big West) and UCLA (1-1-0, PAC 12).
“We’re definitely very confident,” Nealis said after the match. “We weren’t playing our best today or on Friday too. The beginning of the season is always tough, just feeling everybody out, but hopefully when we head to LA we’re playing some better soccer, coming back with two wins.”
It was a back-and-forth contest early on, and the Owls had the first opportunity in the fifth minute. Freshman midfielder Amir Cohen laced a shot from outside the box towards the left corner, but freshman goalkeeper Tomas Romero, starting in place of sophomore Giannis Nikopolidis, made a comfortable diving save. In the 11th minute, the Hoyas were on the attack with junior midfielder Jack Beer switching field to graduate student midfielder Ethan Lochner on the left flank. His quick pass found junior midfielder Jacob Montes at the top of the box, but Montes’ curling effort was just to the right of the post. The Owls continued to press forward in the early going, including a four-on-three break that could have become more dangerous were it not for a confident sliding challenge from Zawadzki in the middle of the pitch.
In the 25th minute, Georgetown found their breakthrough. Junior midfielder Paul Rothrack got on the ball near the left corner of the box, where he turned and crossed towards the middle. Zawadzki got on the end of it, controlled the ball with a quick touch, and calmly slotted it past senior goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre’s left side. Rothrack now has three assists in his first two games as a Hoya.
“I think I’m lucky because all three of the assists I’ve had have been great finishes, as well,” he said. “This team is so easy and fun to play with and I think that’s been the biggest difference for me. We’re enjoying ourselves out there and I think the confidence level shows because of that.”
Georgetown kept the pressure on, with Rothrack, Montes, and sophomore midfielder Zach Riviere leading the charge, and soon had another reward for their efforts. After a lengthy run from Nealis across the pitch, Georgetown won a corner, which was taken by Rothrack. The ball found Nealis at the front post, who headed it across the goal into the right side netting. Head coach Brian Wiese said after the game that corners are something they have been working on, having scored off of two this season.
“The corner is one that we were working on yesterday,” he said. “We thought that there was an opportunity with Dylan [Nealis] because he’s exceptional in the air. The goal wasn’t necessarily meant for him to score, that was an option, obviously, but it was more him getting it in that front area. [Paul’s] delivery was great and the timing was great.”
Coming out of the halftime break, the Hoyas continued to push for more goals, and the game took on a more physical quality, with both sides earning yellow cards before the hour mark. In the 57th minute, the Hoyas would add to their lead again to all but put the match away. Junior forward Derek Dodson found Polvara in a pocket of space several yards outside the box. Polvara took a touch and then fired a rocket into the top left corner for his second goal in his first two collegiate games.
“He’s just like a big baby giraffe out there,” Wiese jokingly said of Polvara after the match. “He’s still trying to get his legs under him, but the kids 6-foot-5. I think he’s got the biggest vertical on the team. He’s incredibly two-footed. The ball pops off his foot differently. So that shot is no surprise. It’s absolutely no surprise that happened based on what he’s capable of and what we see in training every day.”
After the third goal, the game continued to be chippy, but the Hoyas took their foot off the gas, working to control possession more. The Owls earned four more yellow cards before the final whistle, but struggled to create much on the offensive end and the game finished at a comfortable 3-0 margin.
Next up for the Hoyas is an away matchup with UC Irvine on Friday and then a battle with UCLA next Monday.
“We’ve got some unbelievable talented opposition we’re going to be walking into in California,” Wiese said of the upcoming stretch. “There’s a lot to be done, but this group feels like they can win. This is a pretty old, experienced group of players that have been through quite a bit. Every season has its own growth curve to it, so we’re somewhere on there, hopefully still trending upwards.”