Georgetown fans can start calling the women’s soccer team the cardiac kids. Nine times during the regular season the Hoyas needed a second-half goal to earn the victory. On Sunday in Storrs, Conn., they struck again.

A late goal by freshman forward Ingrid Wells was the difference against No. 23 Connecticut (12-5-1, 8-2-1 Big East) as the Hoyas advanced to the semifinals of the Big East tournament for only the third time in program history.

Head Coach Dave Nolan had said before the game that his squad was a confident group, and that the trip up to Morrone Stadium and its hostile environment was not intimidating. The Hoyas would have had every reason to be intimidated. Connecticut was a top 25 team, has made the NCAA tournament every year since the tournament’s inception and draws 1,400 fans per game.

“To be considered as one of the top teams in the Big East you have to start beating some of the top teams in the Big East,” Nolan said. “This year we have done a great job of beating the teams below us, but to beat [Connecticut] is huge.”

The Hoyas set the tone early as their defensive game plan worked to perfection. Working against the balanced Connecticut attack, senior defender Karen Waskewich, junior defenders Alex Gargano and Nicole Smith, and freshman defender Michaela Buonomo played superbly, forcing most of Connecticut’s shots to come from outside the box. Senior keeper Jade Higgins recorded her 20th shutout of her career.

“Our back four was tremendous,” Nolan said. “Most of their shots, about six of them in the first half, were from 25 or 30 yards out. That was our game plan: keep them to long range shots, and they couldn’t do anything with it. We had a few counterattack opportunities in the first half, and we actually had more genuine scoring chances than they did.”

The scoring chances were to no avail however, as the Hoyas found themselves in a scoreless tie at halftime.

The Huskies came out firing to start the second half, ripping three shots in the first 10 minutes. The Hoyas never lost their composure and withstood the onslaught, but could not get much going offensively.

The main concern coming into the game for Nolan was whether veteran Connecticut Head Coach Len Tsantiris would man-mark Wells in an attempt to disrupt the Hoyas’ offense. For the past three weeks, every team Georgetown has faced has employed such a tactic to varying degrees of success. While the Hoyas were able to get chances on counterattacks, it was clear that Tsantiris’ defensive strategy was working as Georgetown struggled to set up sustained offensive sets with Wells constantly covered.

“They changed their system of play from everything they’ve done all year,” Georgetown’s fourth-year head coach said. “They man-marked Ingrid [Wells] and wherever I moved her they sent the man-marker with her. It surprised me that they would do that, but maybe it’s a sign of the respect we now have gotten, that they will change what they do to match up with us.”

After a Buonomo shot in the 70th minute was saved by Connecticut junior goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, the Hoyas got their break. In the 74th minute senior forward Sara Jordan went up for a ball, but Labbe made an ill-fated decision to leave the goal and go for the ball, fouling Jordan in the process. Wells, finally free of her man-marker, stepped up to take the penalty kick.

With the game, and the season for that matter, on the line, the diminutive but smooth rookie stared down the veteran goalkeeper. Wells sent the ball to the back of the net to give Georgetown a 1-0 lead.

“I give her credit – even as a freshman she has ice in her veins,” Nolan said of Wells. “I didn’t have any doubt she was going to score.”

The Blue and Gray couldn’t rest easy as Connecticut had two great scoring opportunities in the final five minutes of regulation, but Higgins denied both opportunities sealing the victory.

The Hoyas now look ahead to a rematch with defending Big East champion and last year’s national runner up, Notre Dame, on Friday at Dlesk Soccer Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. The Hoyas lost 3-0 to the Irish on Oct. 12 in South Bend, Ind. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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