Expectations are a funny thing. It’s easy to have expectations but difficult to live up to them.

For Head Coach Dave Nolan and the eight seniors on his team, this season has been all they have expected and more. After four years of hard work, these nine individuals have helped to bring Georgetown soccer to national prominence and its first berth in the NCAA tournament.

The road that has led the Hoyas to tonight’s NCAA first-round matchup with William & Mary began four years ago when Georgetown elevated Nolan, then an assistant coach, to the head coaching position. Nolan, who helped with recruiting as an assistant, was largely responsible, in his first few months, for bringing in one of the strongest recruiting classes Georgetown had seen.

“This [senior] class was my first class as head coach,” he said. “I knew the first day of preseason, when the eight of them showed up, that it was a talented group.”

The Class of 2008 did not waste any time making an impact on the program. In their first game, forward Sara Jordan scored in the sixth minute, and goalkeeper Jade Higgins was solid in the net to give Nolan his first victory as head coach.

“We started off our freshman year, and we made a big difference,” senior defender Vanessa Joyce said. “We set the tone for the program because a lot of us came in fit, and some of us were starting. So we expected to build on that.”

The Hoyas finished 9-9-1 during the 2004 campaign and earned a spot in the Big East tournament – achieving their goal for that season. With one year of experience under their collective belt, the team and Nolan began to set their expectations higher.

As sophomores, the Class of 2008 found that not only were their expectations higher, but those of others were as well: They were picked to finish fourth in the Big East in the preseason. For the first time, a trip to the NCAA tournament seemed like a real possibility for the program.

The Hoyas did not quite live up to those expectations, but still posted a program-record 12 wins that season and a berth in the Big East tournament.

Last year, in their third season together, Nolan and the Class of 2008 expected a breakout season. All signs pointed to it, but then injuries and bad luck coupled to doom the Hoyas to a 5-9-5 season. While some teams would have been discouraged, the Hoyas used last season as motivation to work even harder to prepare them for this season.

“[Last season] motivated us to do better,” keeper Jade Higgins said. “We set really high goals this year because we were so disappointed in last season. We knew we were a very good team last year and it was upsetting.”

The Hoyas started practicing in late winter while the Hilltop was still being hit with snow and sleet, but the players refused to let the conditions deter their hard work. A trip to Europe over spring break highlighted a spring workout season that Nolan felt was superb.

“This team set out some lofty goals from day one,” Nolan commented. “Coming off of a 5-9-5 season, these guys set goals of making the Big East tournament final four, making the NCAAs and finishing with 10 shutouts. We have a list of 10 goals in the locker room and, to be honest, I’d be lying if I said I thought they were going to achieve every one of them, but they have.”

Those eight seniors, who have been the face of this program for four years, took the weight of four years of hype and expectations and carried it all the way to the NCAA tournament.

This year the Hoyas have won 14 games, a program record, beat two top-25 teams, and held the opposition scoreless a school-record 10 times.

“They deserve a lot of credit. One, for believing, and two, for dreaming,” Nolan said. “I always feel you should set high goals, and I think they have set a great legacy for our program. Where they put that pressure on themselves to make this school to the NCAAs, now the legacy they’re leaving for the classes behind them is that’s the standard now.”

Tonight when Appezzato, Fetters, Filauro, Higgins, Jordan, Joyce, Oderman and Waskewich take the pitch in their first NCAA tournament game, they will do so as the most decorated senior class in Georgetown history – a class that has lived up to all the expectations set before them, and a class that has achieved all their goals.

“Since our freshman year, our goal has always been NCAAs, but it has been so far out of reach,” forward Sara Fetters said. “We didn’t do it freshman year, sophomore year, or junior year, and actually reaching that goal is great. Today we actually set another goal – to win our first NCAA game.”

Maybe the Hoyas have not reached all of their goals just yet, but tonight they get a chance to reach another one against William & Mary.

The Hoyas’ first round game – and second contest, should they advance – will be played at the University of Virginia. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va.

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