Daniel Gresham/The Hoya Senior Pat Collins and the Hoya defense held Rutgers to six goals, its second lowest output of the season.

Things had not been going Georgetown’s way in recent weeks. After starting the season 8-0, the Hoyas dropped three of their final five regular season games. They also lost All-American senior long stick midfielder Kyle Sweeney to a broken ankle for the remainder of the season and were sent on the road to play their first round game in the NCAA Tournament against Rutgers, despite knocking off the Scarlet Knights earlier in the season.

With their backs against the wall, the Hoyas relied on what had gotten them to the postseason in the first place – their defense. Led by their strong back line, No. 8 Georgetown was able to neutralize No. 7 Rutgers’ top offensive threats and come away with a 9-6 victory in an NCAA Tournament First Round game Sunday before a crowd of 1,919 at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N.J. Georgetown advances to the quarterfinals of the tournament for the fifth time in the last six years. The Hoyas improved to 11-3 in 2003 while Rutgers finished its season with a record of 10-5.

“We continued to play very good defense,” Georgetown Head Coach Dave Urick said. “This was a team we had a physical edge against, which is not going to be the case as we move on.”

It will meet the No. 2 seed overall, Virginia, this Sunday at Towson University in Towson, Md. The winner advances to the Final Four, held at Ravens Stadium in Baltimore Memorial Day weekend. Georgetown’s only other Final Four appearance came in 1999.

Senior attackman Jordan Vettoretti led the Georgetown offense with three goals and sophomore midfielder Walid Hajj scored twice. Senior attackman Mike Hammer dished out two assists for the Hoyas. Georgetown outshot Rutgers 35-28. The 9-35 shooting performance was one of the Hoyas’ better showings this season in an area where they have struggled, especially considering that Rutgers’ freshman goalie Greg Havalchak was named the ECAC Defensive Player of the Year. Havalchak made 13 saves in the game.

“We tried to work real hard all week on shooting the ball,” Urick said.

It was the Georgetown defense though that made the difference in the game. The back line of seniors Brant Gresham and Pat Collins and junior Andrew Braziel along with sophomore long stick midfielder Brodie Merrill, who was filling in for Sweeney, limited Rutgers to one of its worst offensive performances of the season. The only time this season the Scarlet Knights scored fewer goals was in their 8-4 loss to the Hoyas on April 26 at Harbin Field.

“Brodie has always had that big play type of capability,” Urick said. “If there was ever a year we absorb a loss of that magnitude [the loss of Sweeney], it’d be this year.”

Georgetown’s intense defense forced Rutgers to commit 22 turnovers in the game. Gresham, matched up against Rutgers’ leading scorer, junior attackman Delby Powless, held him to just one goal and one assist on two shots. Only senior midfielder Ken Springer was able to get anything going offensively for the Scarlet Knights. Springer led Rutgers with three goals in his final college game.

Georgetown got off to a good start Sunday, scoring three goals in the first six and a half minutes of the game to take a 3-0 lead. Rutgers cut the lead to 3-2 by the end of the first quarter, but Georgetown was able to take a 4-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.

In the third quarter, Georgetown firmly took control of the game. It built a 7-3 lead after a dominant third quarter on goals from senior midfielder Mike Chiara, Vettoretti and sophomore midfielder Nick Miaritis. Despite a rally in the fourth quarter, Rutgers was never able to get closer than two goals, as junior attackman Neal Goldman and Hajj each scored to secure the victory for the Hoyas.

This Sunday will mark the first ever meeting between the Hoyas and the Cavaliers. Virginia has been at or near the top of the polls all season and come into Sunday’s game with a record of 11-2 after crushing Mount St. Mary’s 19-8 in the first round Sunday. Its only losses this season came with a pair of 8-7 losses to No. 1 Johns Hopkins and No. 3 Maryland.

“The challenge we have this weekend is one of the biggest we’ve had,” Urick said.

Faceoff is set for 3 p.m.

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