The Georgetown men’s soccer team (0-0, Big East) looks to begin its national title defense on Saturday against Villanova (0-2, Big East). This game comes after the initial three games of the season were postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Georgetown program.
This will be the Hoyas’ first official game on the pitch since their victory over Virginia in the 2019 Championship Game. While mainstays of that title winning team such as forward Achara, defenders Dylan Nealis and Sean O’Hearn, and goalkeeper Tomas Romero have moved on to the MLS, Georgetown still has plenty of firepower to remain in the title conversation.
The team will be led in goal by junior goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis, who has assembled an impressive array of accolades in the preseason. After a year spent alternating games with Romero (who is now playing for Los Angeles FC), Nikopolidis is ready to become a mainstay in goal. He has been chosen for the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, which is awarded to the best player in the NCAA, as well as the preseason All-Big East team and TopDrawerSoccer’s Preseason Best XI Second Team.
The Hoyas backline will be highlighted by Big East preseason Defensive Player of the Year, senior Rio Hope-Gund, who was chosen 19th overall in the MLS SuperDraft. Hope-Gund is considered by TopDrawerSoccer to be one of its top 3 players to watch in the nation, and is on the preseason All Big East team. Joining Hope-Gund on the back line will be sophomore Daniel Wu, who played a key role last year as a freshman.
The Hoyas midfield will be led by talented junior Sean Zawadski and potent senior Jacob Montes. Zawadski, known for his incredible performance in the National Championship semifinals last season, was named to the preseason All-Big East team as well as TopDrawerSoccer’s third team. Montes, meanwhile, joins Nikopolidis on the watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, as well as being named TopDrawerSoccer’s number 1 name to watch this season and member of their first team. To top it all off, he is also a preseason All-Big East team selection.
Senior forward Derek Dodson is back for one last run in the blue and gray, although his running mate, Achara, has moved on to Toronto FC. Dodson was selected eighth overall in the MLS SuperDraft by the Orlando City FC and has been named to the preseason All-Big East squad and the TopDrawerSoccer second team.
While these players supply the star power, Georgetown will be counting on its role players to lead the Hoyas back to the promised land. Some returning contributors that coach Brian Wiese will depend on this year include senior midfielder Paul Rothrock, junior midfielder Zach Riviere and sophomore midfielder Dante Polvara. Also expected to step up after playing sparingly during their freshman seasons are midfielder Aidan Rocha and forward Will Sands, while Martin Ngoh, graduate transfer from VCU, will provide some experience on the front line.
Big East play will look a little different this year, as the conference will be split into two divisions that will only play each other in order to cut down on travel. In the Big East coaches poll, Georgetown was the unanimous choice to come in first in the East Division, with Providence the consensus second choice. Butler is projected to win the Midwest Division. The Hoyas are coming off a year where they went 20-1-3, setting the program record for wins, and won their third consecutive Big East Championship over Providence, before completing their run on the national stage.
Villanova was picked to come in last in the competitive East Division. Last season, the Wildcats went 9-8-1 and 2-6-1 in Big East play. In their two losses this season, their only goal has been scored by freshman Branden Johns. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET in Philadelphia. Live stats can be found at guhoyas.com. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.