No. 2/1 Georgetown men’s soccer (8-1-2, 7-0-2 Big East) fell to the No. 11/12 Seton Hall Pirates (9-1-3, 5-1-2 Big East) by the score of 2-1 in the Big East Tournament championship on Saturday, April 17. The Hoyas made uncharacteristic mistakes in their defensive end and could not take advantage of their offensive penetration, while the Pirates were not the least bit intimidated by the defending national champions. Seton Hall played with physicality and won a crucial sequence midway through the second half that would define the game, with junior forward CJ Tibbling’s goal in the 63rd minute proving to be the deciding factor in the game.
After a rocky start their last time out against Creighton, the Hoyas were on the attack to start this one. An early foul in the 2nd minute on the Pirates’ junior midfielder Paavo Riihijarvi led to a set piece for Georgetown, though senior goalkeeper Andreas Nota was able to get a hand on the ball at the far post. The Hoyas possessed the ball for much of the early going, but the Pirates were content to slow them down and did not concede too many dangerous opportunities. Tibbling’s shot in the 5th minute was the first of the game, though it did not test junior goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis as it sailed high of the crossbar.
Sophomore forward Will Sands was incredibly active as a playmaker in the early going, making several crosses into the box that unfortunately were not able to find anyone. He also fed senior midfielder Paul Rothrock in the 11th minute, and Rothrock made a nice move to beat a defender but missed a shot up high. While the Hoyas were unable to get on the board with their early chances, the Pirates took advantage of their first true opportunity. Tibbling played a through ball for senior midfielder Camil Koreichi, who made the run behind the defense and finished in the bottom left corner for the first goal of the match in the 16th minute.
In the 20th minute, sophomore midfielder Dante Polvara drew a foul from 28 feet out, but the Hoyas again could not capitalize as his shot barely missed to the left. The Hoyas appeared to get slightly impatient from that point, as Polvara and freshman midfielder Chris Hegardt committed fouls in the defensive half leading to free kick opportunities for the Pirates. Sands would help to bring them back, playing another beauty into the box controlled by freshman forward Marlon Tabora Ponce. He got the ball to Rothrock, who set up junior midfielder Zach Riviere to beat Nota in the bottom right corner for his first goal of the season, equalizing the game at 1-1 in the 34th minute.
The game began to open up as the half drew to a close. Tabora Ponce had a golden opportunity with his right-footed shot off a set piece in the 40th minute, but Nota made an excellent instinctive save, leaping high to get a mitt on the ball. Seton Hall had a corner kick as well in the 44th minute, but they were not able to get a shot on that opportunity, and the game remained tied at 1 heading into the break.
Seton Hall found themselves with a set piece opportunity to start the second half, but had a goal waved off due to Tibbling being offside while inadvertently tipping the ball into the net. Georgetown countered with brilliant play from Hegardt, who dribbled past several defenders at the other end but missed a shot just wide. The Pirates continued to press on the attack, with Tibbling taking several headers wide of the goal and freshman midfielder Matthias Sundell missing a shot high in the 58th minute.
The Hoyas had a corner in the 62nd minute but Nota was able to get a hand on it. Moments later, Sundell beat Polvara up the field and played a ball ahead which junior midfielder Sean Zawadzki couldn’t control, giving Tibbling the chance to beat Nikopolidis in the bottom right corner to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Polvara’s difficult day continued as he was stuffed on a penalty kick in the 68th minute which would have equalized the game once more, and the Hoyas could not get any subsequent chances on the net in a critical sequence that defined the game. Polvara responded with a rocket of a shot in the 72nd minute that just missed high, and the Hoyas still trailed going into the final 15 minutes.
Georgetown began to attack with more desperation during the late game. Rothrock found himself in the box in the 78th minute, but his shot attempt was blocked away by the Seton Hall defense. Hegardt tried to put it on the goal in the 82nd minute, but his attempt missed wide for a harmless goal kick to the Pirates. Sundell committed a foul on freshman midfielder Kyle Linares, setting up a free kick for the Hoyas, but they were not able to get a shot away on that chance either. Hegardt set up Polvara for a strike, but he was unable to keep it on frame in the 87th minute. The Hoyas had one final push in the waning seconds of the game, but Rothrock’s shot was blocked away and they fell by the final score of 2-1.
The Hoyas saw their 27-game unbeaten streak at Shaw Field broken in today’s contest, and it was the first time that they fell to a Big East opponent in 903 days. Barring a totally unforeseen event, they will make adjustments as they wait for their draw in the NCAA Tournament, to be held between April 30 and May 17. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.