Hoyas down Mountaineers, head to Cary for the College Cup

December 5, 2021

Giannis Nikopolidis Photo by John Picker

The No. 3 Georgetown men’s soccer team defeated No. 11 West Virginia in penalty kicks on Saturday at Shaw Field. The Hoyas outscored the Mountaineers 4-1 in penalties to cap off a thrilling quarterfinal matchup that was tied 1-1 through regulation and overtime. Junior midfielder Dante Polvara scored his sixth goal of the season in regulation for the Hoyas, while senior forward Yoran Popovich scored his fifth of the year for West Virginia.

In front of a crowd of 3,027 at Shaw Field, well over seating capacity, the Hoyas were looking to return to the College Cup for the first time since 2019 when they won it all. Standing in their way were the physical, defensive Mountaineers, and they lived up to their billing as one of the stingiest teams in the nation.

Georgetown started the game in control of the pace of play, while West Virginia was whistled for three fouls in the first five minutes, setting the tone for much of the rest of the game. Yet, it was the Mountaineers who struck first off a tremendous offensive effort. The Hoyas backline seemed to be in disarray and senior forward Ike Swiger and junior midfielder Luke McCormick, an All-MAC First Team selection, combined to put a ball into the box that Popovich finished. 

The Hoyas continued to put on the pressure after the opener. Junior defender Will Sands made a run to the box and was seemingly knocked down in the 28th minute, but the official missed the call. In the 31st minute, the Hoyas earned a corner kick that sophomore Marlon Tabora, fresh off a hat trick against Providence, couldn’t do much with. The Hoyas headed into the half leading in shots, 7-2, but down one on the scoreboard. The Mountaineers out fouled the Hoyas 11-2 in the first half. 

Photo by John Picker

Once the Mountaineers take a lead, they traditionally shift into a more defensive posture and this game was no different. This is a big part of the reason West Virginia had only ceded 13 goals on the entire season coming into the day. However, the Hoyas were able to break through in the 67th minute when Sands and senior forward Joe Da Luz combined down the left side. Sands controlled the ball into the box before being knocked down, warranting a penalty shot. The referee pointed to the spot and Polvara strode up confidently. The Big East Midfielder of the Year slotted it past West Virginia senior goalie Steven Tekesky to knot things up at 1-1.

The rest of the half went by without too many more chances, but the Hoyas dominated play. Another instance of fans and players believing the referees missed a call occurred in the 81st minute, when it seemed like West Virginia had a handball in the box, but again no call was made. At the end of 90 minutes, a winner could not be determined and the game headed to overtime. 

The Hoyas continued dominating play throughout the overtime periods. In the first OT, Tekesky had a tremendous save on a strike from sophomore midfielder Chris Hegardt, who had one of the Hoyas’ best looks all night. The second overtime was even more eventful, as both Tabora and Hegardt looked to be knocked down in the box by Mountaineers, but neither potential fouls were called. The Hegardt play, in particular, looked like a miss on the part of the officials and drew the ire of Head Coach Brian Wiese. Sandwiched in between these plays was an incredible strike outside the box from Polvara, who was less than a foot away from ending the game before penalty kicks. Alas, PKs would decide this one. 

Stojanovic calmly slotted in the first penalty kick for the Hoyas. Sophomore midfielder Ryan Crooks was up first for the Mountaineers and his initial shot was saved by Nikopolidis but the Hoyas keeper was whistled for jumping off his line early. However, another attempt, same result: a Nikopolidis save to give the Hoyas an advantage they would not cede. 

Photo by John Picker

Senior forward Zach Riviere, West Virginia’s Popovic, and junior defender Aidan Rocha then traded goals until Nikopolidis came up big again, saving a Swiger strike. With a victory in sight, the Hoyas sent up freshman midfielder Joe Buck, for his first collegiate penalty kick. Before going up to take the kick, Polvara called the dynamic young player over to deliver a message.

“Before the kick, Dante just told me it was my moment to make the most of all of the hard work we have put in throughout the season and send us to Cary,” Buck said

Buck delivered a confident strike past a diving Tekesky and rushed into Nikopolidis’s arms as the rest of his teammates ran to greet him. As the team began their celebration, Hoya fans rushed onto the field to join them, turning Shaw Field into bedlam. 

Polvara’s conversation with Buck was poetic. The freshman’s winner was reminiscent of Polvara’s winner over Butler in 2019, when the now-team captain was a freshman himself. Buck seems to be the next dynamic Hoya midfielder in a long line of them, and this penalty, in addition to his game winner over Villanova in the Big East semifinal, only adds to the lore. Looking ahead, the Hoyas will head to Cary, North Carolina for the College Cup. Their opponent in the semifinal match will be No. 2 University of Washington, the highest seed left in the field. Washington took care of St. Louis, Stojanovic’s former team, in the quarterfinals to earn their trip to Cary. The game will be held on Friday, Dec. 10 and will be shown live on ESPNU. Kickoff is still TBD. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for live updates of the game and coverage of all winter sports at Georgetown.

Roman Peregrino
Once upon a time, Roman was the Voice's EIC as well as news, managing, and sports editor. He is from San Francisco and a lot less Italian than his name suggests.

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