No. 7/4 Georgetown men’s soccer (10-2-2, 7-0-2 Big East) saw their promising season go down in smoke, falling to the No. 10/7 Marshall Thundering Herd (11-2-3, 6-0-1 Conference USA) by a score of 1-0 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament on Monday, May 9. The Hoyas did not play with their usual energy on their swarming high press, and only after a 70th minute goal from senior wing Jamil Roberts did the Hoyas increase their activity level. Marshall’s defense held firm, ending the Hoyas’ season and sending the Thundering Herd through to the NCAA College Cup semifinals.
The Hoyas began the game with strong possessions, making crisp passes and controlling the ball. They had a pair of shot opportunities from freshman midfielder Chris Hegardt and another shot from junior midfielder Zach Riviere, but none of their three shots found the frame to test junior goalkeeper Oliver Semmle, one of the nation’s best goalkeepers all season.
On the other end, Marshall would find their first chance in the 36th minute, when Roberts’ shot was on frame but easily saved by junior goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis. Neither team could muster another shot for the half, leaving the game scoreless heading into the break. Though the Hoyas had controlled play at the outset, they did not generate any truly dangerous scoring chances and could not have been satisfied with their start.
The second half began with a Marshall foul setting up a free kick for the Hoyas. Sophomore midfielder Dante Polvara struck a shot but it was handled by Semmle, and it would be one of only two shots on frame for the Hoyas over the course of the entire match. Despite the Hoyas rotating in a bevy of fresh substitutes, they were unable to speed up the Thundering Herd, which did not make a single substitution until the 75th minute. Marshall was able to dictate play for much of the second half, a testament to the fitness of head coach Chris Grassie’s starting XI.
The next sequence that saw Marshall break through would ultimately define the game. In the 61st minute, as Georgetown freshman forward Marlon Tabora Ponce won a ball and dribbled up the near sideline, redshirt junior back Collin Mocyunas scissored Tabora’s legs with no attempt to go for the ball. Tabora fell to the ground but the official only assigned Mocyunas a yellow card, instead of a red card that would have forced Marshall to play down a man. From there, the Thundering Herd took the lead at full strength. Junior midfielder Vitor Dias dribbled past several Hoya defenders on the goal line and sent a perfect cross to the back post for Roberts, who easily tucked it home to give Marshall a 1-0 lead in the 70th minute.
From there, the Hoyas’ desperation drove them into action as they sought an equalizer. Critical in this concluding sequence was the fact that Riviere and senior midfielder Paul Rothrock, two key offensive threats for the Hoyas all postseason, exited the game in the 71st minute in hopes of stealing some rest, but they could not re-enter until the 80th minute. Junior midfielder Sean Zawadzki’s header off a corner kick went just wide of the net in the 72nd minute, and freshman midfielder Kyle Linhares’ cross barely missed Rothrock in the 89th minute. The Hoyas’ best opportunity came at the very end of the game. With just 25 seconds remaining, Polvara sent a cross in for Riviere, but his header at the far post disappeared into Semmle’s mitts, bringing the 2020 Georgetown men’s soccer season to an end.
Though the Hoyas had been a powerhouse for much of the season, departures due to the irregular season and injuries left them shorthanded in the postseason. They adjusted quickly and fought admirably, but it was not enough to overcome a Marshall team with a head of steam going into the match. With a healthy squad and a full offseason program, the Hoyas will continue to be a force in college soccer and contend for the national championship next season. For continued coverage of all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.