Georgetown men’s soccer (17-2, 8-2 Big East) started their pursuit of a second national championship with a 2-0 win over Georgia St. (13-7, 3-3 MAC) in the NCAA Tournament Second Round. Goals from junior midfielder Dante Polvara and senior forward Zach Riviere made the difference and senior goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis was strong in net to keep a clean sheet.
The Hoyas dominated the first half, outshooting the Panthers 10-1 in the period, with a variety of high danger chances. Junior forward Stefan Stojanovic and sophomore forward Kyle Linhares both had looks at goal in the first 20 minutes that went just wide of the net. In the 30th minute, Polvara took a shot from outside the box that clanged off the left post, leaving things level. Despite entering the half 0-0, the Hoyas knew they were close to breaking through.
After halftime, the Hoyas kept the pressure on, but, as time kept ticking, it seemed like the Panthers were content to wait until they had a chance on the counterattack. That chance might have come in the 61st minute as senior midfielder Matthew Fearnley ripped a shot that may have beaten Nikopolidis if junior defender Aidan Rocha hadn’t swooped in and blocked it. Rocha was a particular star of Sunday’s game, flying around the right side, snuffing out attacks, and pinching forward as needed.
In the 69th minute, senior forward Joe Da Luz was pulled down in the box, earning a penalty kick. Polvara, the Big East Midfielder of the Year, calmly put a shot past junior goalkeeper Gunther Rankenburg to give Georgetown the lead. This is extra noteworthy because Polvara had seemed to lose confidence from the penalty spot this season, ceding the role of kick taker to Stojanovic in the Big East Championship game. Stojanovic had already been subbed out at the time of the foul, however, so Polvara stepped up and scored his third PK on the season, in six attempts.
The final tally came in the 83rd minute. Senior midfielder Sean Zawadzki pushed a long ball to Chris Hegardt streaking down the right side. The junior midfielder broke down the defense with a bevy of moves to get space and sent a cross into the box that Riviere beat his defender to. Riviere, back from an injury in the Big East Championship game, slotted it home for his fourth goal of the season, tied for his career high.
After the restart following Riviere’s goal, the Panthers went on the attack. In the final six minutes, Georgia St. nearly broke through, but Nikopolidis was up to the task. He made five saves over the final stretch, including several from point blank range. Even though the Hoyas were up two goals at that point, Head Coach Brian Weise could not have appreciated the lack of discipline during the final minutes of the match. Look for the Hoyas to tighten that up moving forward.
Next up for Georgetown is a rubber match between the Hoyas and the Providence Friars (12-4-4, 5-2-3 Big East). The two teams split their regular season meetings, as Providence dismantled Georgetown 3-0 in October, while the Hoyas got their revenge in the Big East Championship game on Nov. 14, winning 2-1 in overtime. Providence is coming off an upset win over defending champion Marshall in the second round. Both teams are more familiar with each other than any other team which should make for a tense matchup. In a bit of good news, sophomore forward John Franks is probable to return to this matchup which will add speed into the Hoyas attack. Junior defender Daniel Wu is doubtful for the contest.
The Sweet 16 matchup will kickoff at 12:00 pm on Sunday Nov. 28 at Shaw Field. The game will be streamed on ESPN+. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for more updates and coverage of all fall sports at Georgetown.