After surviving a daunting conference slate relatively unscathed, the Georgetown men’s soccer team (4-1-2) heads north to Philadelphia this weekend to open Big East play against Villanova (2-3-2).

Coming off a weekend where they tied Penn on the road and beat Princeton at North Kehoe Field, the Hoyas are confident that their tough nonconference schedule has set them up well for Big East play.

“It’s very similar to men’s basketball; conference [play] is a grind,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “It’s tough and you don’t want to be banged up, but you do want to have confidence.”

In addition to the matchups against the Ivy League’s best, Georgetown’s road trip against Big Ten foes Michigan and Michigan State helped test the team.

“Our take on it is you will either be good enough or you won’t,” Wiese said. “If you’re good enough, you will win these games and if you aren’t good enough, well then you’re not going to be good enough.”

But the Blue and Gray are not the only team that has gotten ready for the conference by taking on some tough rivals.

“Villanova went out on the road and played [UC] Santa Barbara and Cal Poly, and they’ve tested themselves pretty well,” Wiese said. “They’ve played some good teams.”

When setting up this year’s schedule, Wiese and the rest of the coaching staff focused on giving the Blue and Gray a chance to play on the road against good teams with large fan bases.

“Our scheduling is designed so that by the time we get to the Big East it’s [just] another game. We’re not going to be overwhelmed with it,” Wiese said. “A good team with a big crowd; that will not be anything new for us. The atmosphere will be something that we are used to.”

Georgetown has fared well so far in its road tests, with a big victory at Michigan State and draws against Michigan and Penn under its belt.

“On the road, it’s about being a mature team, not making too many mistakes, taking the few chances that you might get and handling any bit of adversity you get,” Wiese said. “If you look at what we’ve done on the road against Michigan, Michigan State and Penn, I think that’s grown this team by leaps and bounds.”

One of the most important factors in the first seven games for the Hoyas has been impressive goalkeeping from freshman Tomas Gomez and sophomore Keon Parsa.

“I think one thing that has been a very happy reality for us has been that our goalkeeping has been really good. I think both Tomas and Keon have been first-rate,” Wiese said. “We’ve only seen three penalty kicks, and only one of those has gone in. That’s not bad.”

And with two solid goalies in the rotation, the team has gained more confidence and flexibility on both offense and defense.

“As far as playing goes, it gives you confidence either way. I think the team has total confidence in both of those guys,” Wiese said. “And if you’re going to be competing for the league, for the national championship, you need to have that.”

The Blue and Gray were also buoyed by the announcement on Wednesday that Zach Samol, who joined the program as an assistant alongside Weise in 2006, has been named to the newly created position of associate head coach.

“You look at a support staff and a lot of people don’t appreciate the amount of work it takes to make a successful program,” Wiese said. “When I came here in 2006, Zach wanted to work for me and I was very happy to get him.”

A college teammate of Wiese’s at Dartmouth, Samol was an assistant at Yale and Boston College before joining the Georgetown staff six years ago.

“His mind for the game is unbelievable, he’s got an incredibly high standard and he is a great recruiter,” Wiese said. “He sees players and knows what I would like and knows a great player when he sees one.”

Despite Samol’s recruiting help, Wiese and Georgetown have lost their fair share of recruits to Villanova over the years.

“Villanova has done a good job [recruiting],” Wiese said. “They are more athletic than they’ve maybe been in the past, and they have some guys that we sure liked in the recruiting process that aren’t here but at Villanova.”

Although the Hoyas beat the Wildcats 3-1 last season, Georgetown and Villanova have a long history of facing off in close contests.

“This is as much of a derby game in the league as there is. Georgetown and Villanova, we play each other maybe too much,” Wiese said. “They are pretty intense games, and we expect the same out of this one.”

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday in Villanova, Pa.

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