Atop the 2022 NCAA Men’s Soccer preseason rankings was the Clemson Tigers, last season’s national champions. Right behind them at number two? The Georgetown Hoyas.
For some programs, such a high ranking would be the talk of campus, a reason to walk around with a swagger. If there’s a program at Georgetown that has earned that right, it’s this men’s soccer team. But you won’t hear any talk of the ranking, even in the locker room, and you certainly won’t see any member of this team with an inflated ego.
“I don’t think they’ve even mentioned the ranking,” said Head Coach Brian Wiese. “It’s nice to be ranked high, but it doesn’t really mean much. They’re used to it.”
“We don’t see [the ranking] as being the number two team in the country, we see that as people having really high expectations of us,” goalie and team captain Ethan Koehler, a graduate student, said. “We know that every single time we step on the field, whether it’s home or away, that the team we play against is going to bring their best on that day. And we have to match that.”
But this Hoya squad is up to the challenge. Despite losing players like Chris Hegardt, Stefan Stojanovic, and Dante Polvara to the professional ranks, and players like Giannis Nikopolidis, Sean Zawadzki, and Zach Riviere to graduation, the Hoyas have an experienced core of improving players to lead the young team.
When asked about players who they expect to step up this season, senior captain Aidan Rocha proceeded to list off nearly everyone. “Marlon [Tabora], Joe Buck, Trevor Burns, John Franks, Pranav Jha, Kyle Linhares…everybody,” he said. “The fact that I can name off all those names as guys that can step up, I mean, you have a ton to write about, Carlos.”
A ton indeed.
Additionally, Georgetown boasts an extraordinary class of incoming freshmen. Some names that stand out include Jack Panayotou, a midfielder who trained with the U.S. Under-19 youth national team, and Jacob Murrell, a 6’2” forward named the 2021-2022 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“Every single one of the freshmen has come in on a mission,” Koehler said. “Every single one of them is ready to come on and make an impact.”
“We’re really happy with how the young guys have embraced what we do, how we do it, and I think even more importantly, how the old guys are taking them under their wing, teaching them, and bringing them into the fold,” Coach Wiese said.
This is nearly a complete team. The only piece missing? The fans.
“When we know the fans are going to be there, it’s such a huge advantage for us,” said Rocha. “It gives us confidence at home.”
The team is ready to start the journey for a second national championship; be a part of the ride and help them defend Shaw Field at every home game.
After falling short of national championship expectations last year, the Georgetown women’s soccer team is only looking in one direction: forward.
There are a lot of things to be excited about this year. The Hoyas have a crop of promising first years whom returning players and coaches alike are thrilled to have on board. Maya Fernandez-Powell, a graduate student who has been with the Hoyas since 2018, believes that her new teammates are going to be great assets for the team—specifically when it comes to scoring.
“We have a pretty exciting group of freshmen,” she said. “Quite a few that I think are going to bring a lot to the table this year and get a lot of minutes.”
There’s also the matter of rankings. The team was picked to finish first in the Big East and was ranked 19th in the United Soccer Coaches preseason poll. This sort of recognition is not new—they were picked to finish first in the Big East last year—but it still sets the standard for the level of play all season. Individual accolades play a role as well; Julia Leas, a senior midfielder, has been named to the watch list for the Hermann Trophy, which is the most prestigious award in college soccer.
When asked about these sorts of expectations, Leas made it clear that they make little impact on gametime strategy.
“Preseason awards and rankings are nice, but really, they don’t speak for anything,” she said. “That’s the minimum. That’s what people are expecting.”
Coach Dave Nolan agreed. “It’s on paper,” he said of the rankings. “Our game is played on grass. Paper doesn’t mean anything, so I usually don’t pay that much attention to it.”
One thing the team does pay attention to is fan support.
“I think the biggest thing the student body can do is come out to our games, bringing that energy and spirit. Because it really does make a difference when we’re playing,” Fernandez-Powell said.
Leas and Nolan went a step further, calling on Georgetown students to give the women’s soccer team the same attention and support that their male counterparts get. “Sometimes we do get so much support,” Leas said. “But I look over at the men’s games, and the energy they have—it’s electric.”
“Everybody wants to cheer for a winner,” Nolan added. “And we win more than pretty much anybody. And I sometimes feel like these guys don’t get respect for that, and I think they should. We should have more fans in the stands.”
Georgetown students will have their chance to show up to Shaw and support on Sept. 4, when the team takes on Columbia at 1 p.m.