After a series of impressive performances in the past five games, the Georgetown women’s soccer team (4-1) looks prepared to exceed expectations, vaulting into the national conversation.
Junior midfielder Rachel Corboz, who has been named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week twice in the last three weeks, delivered the Hoyas their biggest win of the young season with her overtime 22-yard strike at then-No. 12 Rutgers on Friday night. The 2-1 victory boosts an NCAA tournament resume, which has further chances to grow with upcoming non-conference matches against No. 3 Virginia (6-0) and at No. 4 West Virginia (5-0-1).
Joining Corboz on a formidable midfield line is senior forward Grace Damaska, who sits joint-third in the country in goals scored and has also earned a Big East Offensive Player of the Week nod this season.
Sophomore forward Caitlin Farrell and graduate student forward Crystal Thomas also provide pace in attacking midfield and have been instrumental in the strong offensive start. Thomas notched four goals and an assist in Sunday’s 6-0 exhibition victory over Papua New Guinea’s U-20 side.
The Hoyas aim to accomplish two feats this year, both of which they have come tantalizingly close to over the past four seasons: to win the Big East and to advance past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Head Coach Dave Nolan knows he can look to Corboz and other team leaders to navigate one of the most difficult non-conference schedules the Hoyas have ever faced, which includes a 3-0 loss to No. 2 Stanford (5-0).
“I’ve been very blessed over the years here at Georgetown. I’ve been lucky to coach some really, really talented players,” Nolan said. “Soccer is not that difficult to figure out. If you’ve got great players, good things can happen. You just enjoy it while you have them.”
At the other end of the field, sophomore goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman has earned shutouts in 6-0 and 4-0 wins over Towson and Delaware, respectively, and junior defender Elizabeth Wenger earned a Big East Defensive Player of the Week award last weekend.
Although freshman defender Sarah Trissel has stepped into central defense comfortably and admirably through the first four games, a knock from a rough tackle against Rutgers gave graduate student Marina Paul an opportunity to assert her presence on the pitch.
“Rutgers were a particularly dangerous team on corner kicks,” Nolan said. “Up until the goal against us, four of their last five goals had been corner kicks. So having Marina in there just gave us a little bit more help with that, and that was a big plus for us. I haven’t made up my mind yet what we’re going to do as regards to the matchup on Thursday [against George Mason].”
As outside backs, junior defender Drew Topor and graduate student defender Corey Delaney remain Nolan’s first choice, while junior midfielders Taylor Pak and Chloe Knott sit in front of the central defenders.
Halfway to conference play, Nolan is focusing on the day-to-day ways to reach such lofty goals.
“Keeping everybody healthy. Trying to continue to get better every day,” Nolan said. “Not looking past the next game, which is always the most important one. And again, just trying to keep the spirit and mood right, which I think we will do because there are so many young players. … We’re where we had hoped we would be.”
The freshmen have quickly adapted to college soccer, with midfielders Paula Germino-Watnick and Casey Richards injecting sparks of energy to the game with their pace and confidence on the ball.
“Freshmen always bring a lot of energy,” Nolan said. “And in some ways it’s infectious, and the older players respond to it.”
Even looking past the winning goal, Corboz was the best player on the field, spurring the Hoyas to dominate the game and create several chances by the end of the second half. All anyone will remember, though, is her moment of overtime brilliance.
“Grace played a good ball across to me,” Corboz said. “I looked up, and no one was in front of me. I don’t know how they left me unmarked, but I was unmarked. … This is definitely the most important goal I’ve scored, just because it was against a ranked team and it was in overtime to give us the win.”
Georgetown women’s soccer has certainly experienced success in recent years, reaching four consecutive NCAA tournaments and always competing to win the Big East. But the big game win, that next step to catapult the team past the edge of the top 25, has remained just out of reach.
With a big test on Sunday at 1 p.m. against No. 3 Virginia, the Hoyas will look to learn from the Stanford game and finally reach that next level.
“Each game we’re getting better and better, and we’re getting to know each other a lot better,” Corboz said. “So after that loss against Stanford, we knew that we never wanted to feel that way, never wanted to lose like that again … We know we can compete with teams like that.”
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