Mitch Fox/The Hoya Georgetown takes on Notre Dame on Saturday in the Big East Tournament.

The Hoyas clinched a fifth-place finish in the Big East and a berth in the postseason tournament after defeating conference foe West Virginia University 1-0, in their final regular season game.

A scant 80 fans braved the cold weather for last Monday afternoon’s makeup game at Mountaineer Soccer Complex in organtown, W. Va. The teams were supposed to play Oct. 16, but stormy weather forced the two sides to postpone the meeting.

When the Hoyas finally did face their challengers, they were playing in good form after beating Notre Dame a week before and tying then top-ranked St. John’s two days earlier. Play progressed fairly slowly in the first half with neither team taking advantage of opportunities on offense. Both teams only fired four shots throughout the half and Georgetown had the only shot on goal.

“The first half was a struggle to get a rhythm playing, and I think the pressure of knowing they had to win hurt them. They weren’t getting any chances out there and were showing frustration,” Head Coach Keith Tabatznik said.

The Hoyas elevated their game for the second half, playing with more effort and creating more chances. The team finally broke through in the 67th minute when sophomore back Dan Gargan crossed the ball to sophomore forward Paul Brandley, who touched the ball and sent it past West Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Chris McKinney for the game’s only goal.

“In the second half we relaxed a little bit and really just focused on playing,” Tabatznik said.

West Virginia almost tied the game in the 84th minute when sophomore midfielder Aaron Pitchkolan recovered a deflected shot and launched it into the goal, only to have the referee call him offsides and nullify the play.

West Virginia fired off more shots than the Hoyas by a margin of 11 to nine while both McKinney and Georgetown junior goalkeeper Tim Hogan registered four saves for the game. The game marked Hogan’s third shutout of the year. The Hoyas racked up 15 fouls and two yellow cards while the Mountaineers committed 12 fouls and received one yellow card.

The Hoyas finish their season with a 7-8-1 total record and a 5-4-1 record in the Big East. West Virginia concludes its season with a 4-11-2 final record and a 1-8-1 record in the Big East. While the Mountaineers finished last in the conference, Georgetown vaulted from eighth place to fifth with a total of 16 points. Though Rutgers also had 16 points for the season, Georgetown placed ahead of them due to their 1-0 victory head-to-head in September.

The team finished with a 2-0-1 record after their embarrassing loss to Virginia Tech. They have moved their play to a higher level and bounced back strongly after being on the brink of missing the tournament. The Hoyas have shown more consistency in the last two weeks than ever in their up-and-down season.

“It was after our loss to Virginia Tech that the guys definitely realized that there was another level of play that they had to reach, and they really showed it and have continued to play well right through their last games,” Tabatznik said.

This marks the 11th consecutive time that the Hoyas have qualified for Big East postseason play. Seeded fifth in the tournament, they will face fourth-seeded rival Notre Dame on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in South Bend, Ind. The six other teams that qualified are Boston College, who captured the regular season title with 24 points, St. John’s, Connecticut, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Providence.

If the Hoyas succeed next Saturday, they will wait a week before playing the winner of the Boston College-Providence match-up the weekend after that. The semifinals and the final, which occurs the following day, are held at Rutgers Soccer Stadium in Piscataway, N. J.

While Georgetown defeated Notre Dame, now ranked 16th nationally, by a score of 3-2 in thrilling game, the pressure still remains. Its regular season victory came at such a narrow margin, with a penalty kick in the last minute of the game deciding the outcome. The Hoyas also lose the home field advantage to the Fighting Irish, and before the West Virginia match-up Georgetown struggled on the road.

“We’re playing really well right now. The key is to show in our preparation this week that we’re really determined to try to win this Big East Championship,” Tabatznik said.

Still, the coach and team remain positive and have worked this week in preparation to avenge last year’s first round at the hands of Notre Dame. They have elevated their game recently and are prepared to face a challenge in what will surely be a hard-fought battle.

“Our biggest incentive is the fact that they beat us last year, and we have the chance to knock them out this year and move onto the final four. Both teams are highly motivated and both teams are playing really great soccer right now. It’s going to be a super game,” Tabatznik said.

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