No. 2/1 Georgetown men’s soccer (8-0-2, 7-0-2 Big East) escaped with a 1-0 victory over the Creighton Bluejays (6-6-0, 5-3-0 Big East) in the first Big East Tournament semifinal match on Thursday, April 15. The Hoyas scuffled early and looked out of sorts with several key players missing, but they leaned on a clean sheet from junior goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis and a heroic goal from junior midfielder Joe DaLuz to break the tie in the 84th minute.
The Hoyas began the game short-handed, as senior midfielder Jacob Montes, senior defender Rio Hope-Gund, and senior forward Derek Dodson had left the team to pursue their professional careers. The Bluejays took advantage, getting the first shot on the net from junior midfielder Callum Watson in the 5th minute of the match. In the 11th minute, sophomore midfielder Aidan Rocha took a shot that went wide to the left. It would be the only shot Georgetown would take until the 68th minute, as the midfielders and attack struggled to get on the same page with key players unavailable.
Creighton spent most of the first half on the attack, adding another three shot attempts in the period to go along with Watson’s opening salvo. Watson’s two subsequent attempts went high above the crossbar, as did senior defender Musa Qongo’s attempt in the 15th minute. Though the Hoyas may have conceded possession of the ball, the Bluejays missed chances and Nikopolidis saved the only true challenge he faced. Junior midfielder Charles Auguste was given a yellow card in the 23rd minute, but the Hoyas were unable to take advantage of the mistake, and the score remained tied at 0-0 heading into the break.
“Creighton was fantastic,” said Georgetown head coach Brian Wiese. “They dictated a lot of the game to us and they came here on our home field and controlled a lot of the play.”
The physical play resumed where it had left off to open the second half, as the Bluejays’ freshman midfielder Mark O’Neill was given a yellow card in the 46th minute. Creighton continued their attacking ways as well, with sophomore defender Luke Mitchell taking a shot that went high and wide in the 53nd minute. The Hoyas got their first true scoring chance in the 68th minute, but freshman midfielder Kyle Linares was stonewalled by junior goalkeeper Paul Kruse.
At this point the Hoyas were able to generate chances with greater consistency. After managing just one shot in the first 67 minutes, they notched seven the rest of the way. In the 79th minute, junior midfielder Sean Zawadzki had a header at the near post off a beautiful corner kick from senior midfielder Paul Rothrock, but he headed the ball over the crossbar.
The next sequence would define the game, as junior midfielder Keegan Boyd played a perfect through ball for senior forward Diego Gutierrez, the Big East offensive player of the year. Nikopolidis made an even better play, sprinting out of the box to clear the ball away before Gutierrez could get there. The Hoya goalkeeper’s activity all day had kept the Bluejays off the scoreboard and compensated for his team’s relative lack of offensive production.
Mere seconds later on the counterattack, his team rewarded him in kind. Rothrock played a ball to DaLuz on the left wing, who hesitated for a moment and struck hard, beating Kruse to his right and finally putting the Hoyas on the board in the 84th minute. DaLuz picked the perfect time for his first career goal in a Hoya uniform, as he shot with confidence after being pressed into action. The Hoyas were able to close it out from there, as Nikopolidis made another save on Watson in the 88th minute to preserve the 1-0 victory.
“Giannis was really important for us in goal keeping the shutout, and then Joe DaLuz had a fantastic finish at a timely moment,” said Wiese. “In a game where we didn’t generate a lot of chances, we took the ones we got, and sometimes semifinals feel that way so we’re happy to be moving on to the final.”
Indeed, the top-seeded Hoyas will face the No. 11 Seton Hall Pirates (8-1-3, 5-1-2 Big East) in the Big East Tournament finals on Saturday, April 17. The Pirates whipped the No. 17 Marquette Golden Eagles 4-1 in the other conference semifinal match, scoring two quick goals in the first nine minutes and never looking back. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. ET at Shaw Field, and the game will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 2. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.