CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA Senior midfielder Kelly D’Ambrisi had one goal and one assist against JMU.
Senior midfielder Kelly D’Ambrisi had one goal and one assist against JMU.

Healthy may not be the best adjective to describe the state of the Hoyas at this stage in the season, but the return of a fit sophomore defender Mary Kroening to the starting lineup came just in time to help push Georgetown (6-2-0) past non-conference visitors James Madison (3-2-1) and St. Francis (3-3-0) this past weekend.

Forced to fill the centerback role rather than her usual position of fullback due to injuries, the 5-foot-10 Kroening anchored the back line on its way to a pair of shutouts and scored the lone goal in the Blue and Gray’s victory over the St. Francis Red Flash on Sunday afternoon.

“Just having Mary back on the field for us helps us a lot because we’re so small … I thought she was tremendous,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said. “Mary certainly helps us on set pieces, and thankfully today she helped us on an attacking set pieces … The kids who are out [injured] for us are all of our tall kids. Any time we can get any height on the field we’re happy.”

After a rocky three-game stretch in which Georgetown was squeezed by Virginia Commonwealth and fell flat against Stanford and William & Mary, Friday night’s 2-0 defeat of James Madison and Sunday’s 1-0 victory over St. Francis were positive results but could easily have ended in more lopsided scorelines. The Hoyas outshot their opponents by a combined 49-8 and dominated possession in both contests, yet routinely let golden scoring opportunities fall by the wayside.

Georgetown 2, James Madison 0

The Hoyas got underway against the Dukes four and a half hours late due to rain and also had to relocate from their usual spot on North Kehoe field to under the lights at Multi-Sport Facility. Undeterred by the unfamiliar confines and boosted by a raucous crowd, the Blue and Gray came out flying.

Despite Georgetown’s early dominance of the ball, it took 23 minutes for the hosts to break the deadlock. The Hoyas had already created several chances before senior midfielder Kelly D’Ambrisi opened the scoring after a chaotic sequence in the penalty box. Senior forward Samantha Baker connected on a trademark long throw-in with Kroening, who flicked the ball towards the back post, and after several blocked shots one carom came to D’Ambrisi, who was ready to pounce.

The Dukes were limited to infrequent sniffs of the Hoyas’ goal, and the result was put out of doubt in the 73rd minute courtesy of the redshirt senior midfielder Ingrid Wells. D’Ambrisi perfectly threaded her pass through a helpless defense to the streaking Wells on the left side of the penalty area, who guided the ball off the inside of the far post and over the goal line — all while it appeared that she was being fouled.

“I thought it was well deserved. I thought we were the better team, it’s just a matter of eventually getting the goals, and I thought 2-0 was just about a fair result.” Nolan said.

Georgetown’s offense was able to take advantage of the smooth turf surface on Multi-Sport Facility, playing quickly as Hoya attackers sought to run at defenders with pace.

“We knocked the ball around really well … if we had been playing on a muddy grass field I think it would have been more of a scrap, but it really helped us because we could knock the ball around,” Nolan said. “In the second half we dropped a few balls over the top, which now had their defenders already dropping, which opened up the play.”

Georgetown 1, St. Francis 0

The Hoyas produced a bounty of well-crafted scoring opportunities on Sunday afternoon — peppering the goal with long-range efforts and dangerous set pieces alike — but it was only after 81 minutes that Kroening nodded a cross from junior midfielder Christina O’Tousa into the back of the net for the decisive score.

St. Francis junior keeper Brianna Butcher did well to push D’Ambrisi’s rocket from 20 yards wide of her right post, but the Hoyas converted on the ensuing corner. After bouncing around in the box, the ball found the feet of O’Tousa, who had a cross blocked before dribbling to the end line and then lofting a beautiful cross to the unmarked Kroening at the far post.

“Tina had a great turn, kept her composure, and played a really good ball to me. Nobody was even on me, I had to do the easy work, I just had to finish it,” Kroening said. “We had a lot of chances and scrambles in front of the net, so [the goal] was coming, I think we could all feel it.”

While the Blue and Gray barraged the St. Francis penalty area throughout the match — Wells had two goals called back for offsides — the Red Flash proved to be exceptionally dangerous on the break.

“Soccer’s a funny sport … it was 33 shots to five, and yet they still had four great chances,” Nolan said. “Their wide forwards were tremendous players. … They gave us problems all day.”

Senior goalkeeper Elizabeth Hanna was called into action for three key saves on counterattacks throughout the afternoon. While an early goal from the Hoyas would likely have changed the visitors’ strategy and opened the game up, the Hoyas’ offensive profligacy kept the defense on its toes.

“You have got to find a way to finish the game, and every time we had them on the ropes we weren’t good enough to finish the game,” Nolan said. “Thankfully we’ve got Ingrid and thankfully we’ve got Kelly. Those two in particular did a tremendous job of wanting to win the game, [they] were determined for us to win the game … and I guess that was the big difference.”

Georgetown begins conference play this Friday night with a visit to Seton Hall. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. in South Orange, N.J.

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