The Georgetown women’s soccer team heads to George Mason looking to extend their 3-0 start to the season in the George Mason Tournament, their final event before the start of conference play on Sept. 19.

The Hoyas have had a strong showing thus far, winning against American, UMBC and Ohio in the last two weeks. The victories have been confidence-boosters for the relatively young team, but Head Coach Dave Nolan still has concerns about the team’s defensive play.

“We’ve been pretty good about scoring goals and creating chances,” Nolan said. “But we want to work better defensively. We’ve given up two goals, probably as a result of inexperience. So hopefully we won’t make those mistakes again because we have more experience at this point.”

Georgetown will aim to strengthen their defensive formation and continue their solid pre-conference offensive play this weekend. The Hoyas’ first match up will be against Mississippi State on Friday. The MSU Bobcats boast a 3-1 record after several non-conference games. The team has six returning seniors who helped lead MSU into the postseason league tournament last year, a feat that the team had not accomplished for four years. The Bobcats’ roster also includes 10 freshmen players whom Head Coach Neil Macdonald expects will strengthen the team’s midfield attack and offensive front line.

“They are a very physical, aggressive, in-your-face team,” Nolan said of the Bobcats. “Their coach does a good job of working them into a frenzy.”

The Bobcats’ aggressive playing style is most visible in their strong defensive creation. The team has five returning starters on the defensive end of the field, including senior Bethany Frazier, a player exceptionally skilled at creating scoring opportunities for her teammates, as she led the team in assists last season. MSU also has a talented returning goalie, Taryn Holland, who compiled an impressive 5.27 saves per game last season with 104 total saves.

The Hoyas will then face the University of Hartford in their final game of the tournament on Sunday. The Hartford Hawks have compiled a 2-1-1 record going into the tournament and have been steadily moving up in their conference’s rankings as the season progresses.

Hartford hopes to continue their solid Division I play this season, and the experience of their squad should mean that they won’t disappoint. The Hawks are bringing back 13 players from last year’s American East Championship team, including seven starters.

Led by Head Coach John Natale, Hartford boasts a very strong defensive unit. Most of Hartford’s defenders return to the team this season, including two 2007 all-conference selections, senior Kellie Leyland and junior Becky Flowers. However, the Hawks have a somewhat inexperienced goaltender, as the departure of two-time all-conference pick and 2006 America East Conference Goalkeeper of the Year Elizabeth Cook left a hole in the Hawks’ defense.

Despite the newcomer at goal, Nolan still believes that the Hawks will be a tricky team to beat. “They are a counter-attacking team, and you can’t get impatient and leave yourself exposed,” he said of Hartford. Indeed, Hartford has a stacked midfield that will allow Natale the luxury of switching up his offensive lineup throughout the game without losing skill or experience. The midfield will be led by senior Kacey Busque, the squad’s second-best scorer last season, and junior Laura Guigli, who has garnered all-conference honors twice.

“Hartford will probably be the strongest non-conference team we will face this season,” Nolan said. The coach believes that the Hoyas’ contest against Hartford will be a good test before his team enters conference play, especially because Georgetown will be playing without fifth-year senior and offensive star Sara Jordan, who is sidelined with an injury from last week’s game against Ohio. Nolan feels that her absence this weekend will allow some of the younger players to step in and become more comfortable with collegiate play.

“By the time we get into Big East games, we’ll be a little bit tested and ready for conference play,” Nolan said.

The Hoyas are slated for a 3 p.m. start on Friday against Mississippi State and a 1 p.m. start on Sunday versus Hartford at the George Mason Stadium.

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