The air will be thick with tension and excitement in Indiana when the Hoyas step onto the field today to face No. 2 seed Notre Dame for the second time in two weeks.

The last time the two teams faced off, the Hoyas walked off their home ground, the Multi-Sport Facility, with their heads hanging after their first and only home defeat of the season, 10-8. The Fighting Irish had fought and snatched an early lead, refusing to let go of it despite the Hoyas’ best comeback effort.

The scoreboard underemphasized the suffering endured by the Blue and Gray that sunny Saturday afternoon – the Hoyas never managed to get into an offensive rhythm until the very end, and with 12 minutes left in the game, they were trailing by 9-3. Were it not for five quick Hoya goals near the end of the match, especially a last-minute pair just nine seconds apart by sophomore attacker Molly Ford, the final score line would have been more dismal.

The Hoyas, who are the three seed in the tournament, face an uphill battle going into the game today, especially in the psychological department; not only will the Hoyas have to contend with the memory of last fortnight’s defeat, they also will have to overcome the home-field advantage that the Irish will have over them.

This is the second consecutive season that the top pool of the Big East consists of Georgetown, Notre Dame, No. 4 Rutgers and No. 1 Syracuse, as well as the second straight year Georgetown will play Notre Dame in the tournament’s semifinals.

The Hoyas were in a similar position last year, facing the Irish in the tournament after a 13-8 regular season loss. Head Coach Ricky Fried and the Hoyas will be praying for history to repeat itself – the Hoyas got revenge, downing their rivals 12-10.

As far as head-to-head offensive statistics go, the Fighting Irish have the definite upper hand. A greater goal difference, a higher shot percentage and superior possession stats all tip the balance in the Fighting Irish’s favor. It is exactly the offensive comparison that is a cause for worry for Fried. “We shot 1-of-11 in the first [half] at our place,” he said of the two teams’ last meeting, emphasizing the Hoyas’ need for better shooting in their next matchup.

Offense will undoubtedly be essential to the Hoyas’ shot at the Big East this evening. The midfielders, particularly senior Patty Piotrowicz and junior Megan Bloomer, will need to bring their aggressive game to the field, since the team will depend on them to battle for draw controls and ground balls against a statistically stronger team. The attack quartet of senior Zan Morley, sophomores Molly Ford and top-scorer Ashby Kaestner and freshman Jordy Kirr will be called upon yet again to perform under pressure. “We’re hoping to possess the ball a little longer,” Fried said, “and execute when we get quality opportunities.”

“I think we need to play over the entire field consistently,” Fried said, not wanting to focus on just one position important to a Hoya victory. “If we come together as a team, we’ll be fine. We don’t need to be fantastic in any area. If we play the way we’re capable of playing, execute and win the 50-50 balls, we can be successful.”

If the Hoya defense is able to perform with energy and alertness, aspects of the Hoyas’ backline that would sometime fall flat during the season, they have a bright chance in locking in the Notre Dame offense. The Hoyas’ sophomore goalkeeper, Caitlin Formby, is enjoying excellent form this season, making 120 out of the Hoyas’ 150 saves, and time and again stopping around 10 shots per game in the cage. Fried will hope that Formby stays on form for this crucial game, and can marshal her backline to keep things tight.

If the Hoyas were to defeat the Irish, they would most likely go on to play the Orange, another grudge match, seeing as Syracuse annihilated Georgetown 18-3 earlier in the month. Also at stake will be the fact that whoever emerges victorious in the championship game will have a worry-free ticket straight to the NCAA tournament.

“We’re going in with the attitude that we have to take care of our business to get in the NCAAs, but we feel if we execute the way that we’re capable of, things will take of themselves,” Fried said. “We don’t want to leave our fate in someone else’s hands.”

Tonight’s game is set for 7:45 p.m., and the championship game will be played on Sunday.

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