No. 12/18 Georgetown women’s soccer (12-0-1, 7-0-1 Big East) pulled out a dramatic 1-0 win over the No. 18/14 South Carolina Gamecocks (11-6-0, 6-2-0 SEC) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA College Cup. As she had all season, senior forward Jenna Menta took it upon herself to win the match for the Hoyas, sprinting coast-to-coast alone to fire the winning goal in the 90th minute. The Hoyas played their trademark excellent defense the whole way, with the goalkeeping tandem of graduate Lauren Gallagher and senior Alyssa Navarrete maintaining another clean sheet.
“We didn’t look like we were going to score too many goals, and they didn’t look like they were going to score too many goals,” said Georgetown head coach Dave Nolan. “It was going to take a special play by a special player.”
Georgetown stormed out of the gates strong, with junior midfielder Maya Fernandez-Powell blasting a shot low that was saved by freshman goalkeeper Taylor Fox in the 2nd minute. The Hoyas had a set piece shortly afterwards on a corner kick in the 5th minute, but graduate midfielder Daisy Cleverley’s shot attempt went high over the frame.
Neither side could generate many quality chances for the rest of the half. The Gamecocks’ best opportunity of the opening stanza came in the 22nd minute, but junior midfielder Jyllissa Harris volleyed a ball high and to the right of the frame, and Navarette was not tested for the rest of the half. Georgetown’s only other chance came in the 41st minute, with Fernandez-Powell shooting to the left of the goal. The Hoyas were perfectly comfortable with the 0-0 stalemate at halftime, considering their stellar defense in conceding just three goals all season.
Such a situation presented itself 15 minutes into the second half. The Gamecocks had a set piece off a corner kick in the 57th minute and Gallagher held strong, saving freshman forward Corrinna Zullo’s shot in the bottom right corner. Gallagher came through for the Hoyas again in a critical situation just three minutes later, when senior defender Kelly Ann Livingstone committed a foul in the 18 yard box. Redshirt junior forward Claire Griffiths had an opportunity to break the ice with less than 30 minutes remaining in regulation, booting a strong penalty kick, but the veteran was a steel curtain once again, diving to her right for a tide-turning save.
“Going down the stretch, if anything, I felt Lauren’s penalty kick save was huge because at that point they had started to get on top a little bit,” said Nolan. “I think it sucked the life out of them a little bit and gave us a great energy boost to finish off the half.”
Indeed, the play of their veteran rock in the net reinvigorated the Hoyas, while the deflated Gamecocks could not muster another shot for the rest of the game. In the 69th minute, Fernandez-Powell fired another shot that went just to the left of the net, and senior midfielder Grace Nguyen followed that with her shot in the 74th. The Hoyas were clearly the aggressors the rest of the way, and it would only be a matter of time until they fired the decisive shot that would secure the game.
In the end, Menta saved her best for last. She created a counterattack by herself, hustling down the left sideline and leaving Gamecocks in her wake. When she reached the penalty area, she sliced in between two defenders, froze another with a hesitation move, and struck the ball into the bottom right corner of the net, finally beating Fox in the 90th minute to pull the Hoyas ahead, 1-0. It was her second game-winning goal in as many games, and the Hoyas advanced after South Carolina could not put a shot on net in the final seconds of the match.
“‘Big players make big plays in big games.’ That’s what we kept saying to them,” said Nolan. “Thankfully Lauren made a big play on the penalty kick and Jenna obviously made a big play on the goal.”
The Hoyas’ flair at the finish has carried them to the Sweet Sixteen, where they will face off against the No. 4/8 TCU Horned Frogs (12-1-1, 8-0-1 Big 12) on Wednesday, May 5. TCU crushed New Mexico (10-2-1, 7-1-0 Mountain West) 6-2 on the back of 6 consecutive goals and a brace from sophomore forward Grace Collins. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be available through Greenlight TV on Vimeo. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.