CHRIS GRIVAS/THE HOYA Senior Andy Riemer (in gray, foreground) scored in the 65th minute, but UConn’s Andre Blake (in green) came up big with seven save
Senior Andy Riemer (in gray, foreground) scored in the 65th minute, but UConn’s Andre Blake (in green) came up big with seven save

Facing pressure in the 39th minute from an oncoming Connecticut attacker, junior goalkeeper Keon Parsa ran outside of his 18-yard box, knocked the ball with his shoulder back into his area and picked it up. To his surprise, the whistle suddenly blew.

It wouldn’t blow again.

After that handball call, the No. 2 Huskies (10-0-1, 3-0-0 Big East) immediately struck one in off of the ensuing restart while Parsa was in the process of setting up his wall, and Georgetown found itself down, 1-0, despite having dominated the run of play entirely up to that point.

Other calls further blunted Georgetown’s momentum, and, in the end, the Hoyas (10-1-1, 2-1-1 Big East) — ranked just one spot behind UConn at No. 3 going into Wednesday’s matchup — were unable to level the score, suffering their first loss of the season, 2-1, in heartbreaking fashion.

“It’s frustrating because I think we did what we wanted to do,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “There was nothing to tell the guys at halftime because we were running the game how we wanted to run it.”

The Blue and Gray seemed to be the better side right from the opening kickoff. As is its preference, Wiese’s team had the lion’s share of possession throughout, and it only seemed a matter of time before it would go ahead.

Off a free kick early in the first half, junior forward Steve Neumann sent a teasing ball into the box that went untouched and ended up hitting the far post.

Just a few minutes later, freshman forward Brandon Allen rifled a shot that looked destined for the right corner, but UConn sophomore goalkeeper Andre Blake made one of many incredible saves on the day to deny the Big East goals and points leader an opening goal.

Georgetown’s assault on the Connecticut goal would continue from there, as the squad amassed a whopping 12 shots in the opening half. Six minutes from the intermission, however, everything changed.

“I shouldered it back in, and [after the free kick was called,] I’m setting my wall up, and I always ask, ‘Ref, whistle. Ref, whistle,’” Parsa said. “I didn’t hear a response. I’m lining up my wall, and, out of nowhere, they just slot it in. He didn’t call it back, and I was so shocked.”

Phantom handball aside, Wiese expressed frustration after the game about the way that the referees handled the taking of the free kick.

“The problem was that I think somebody from UConn asked for 10 [yards], and it wasn’t acknowledged by the referee. And when someone asks for 10, everybody [starts getting in position,]” Wiese said. “It was tough to have the game turned on that kind of a play. They’re good enough [that] they’re going to create some chances, and you’d [rather have lost] the game a little differently. But that’s soccer, and I thought the guys responded really well.”

Indeed, Neumann nearly got one right back before the intermission, but his blast — like Allen’s earlier in the half — was parried wide in spectacular fashion, as Blake showed why he’s generally regarded as the best college goalkeeper in the country.

The score would remain unchanged until the 64th minute, when the Huskies doubled their lead on another controversial play.

Off of a corner kick reset, the ball was lofted into the box, and Parsa was run into by a UConn attacker as he jumped up to haul it in. No call was made, however, and the loose ball was headed into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

Wiese, a former goalkeeper himself, said that the foul is one that is called “nine times out of 10.”

Nonetheless, the Hoyas responded well to their two-goal hole and were rewarded almost immediately after beginning to press even harder.

Just over two minutes after Connecticut had scored, Neumann made a run to the opposing endline and sent in a low cross, which was adroitly redirected by senior midfielder Andy Riemer to put the Blue and Gray right back in the game.

“I don’t think any of us really panicked when that second goal went in,” co-captain Ian Christianson said. “We knew we could score another one and at least get back in the game. We did that and kind of were unfortunate not to put a second one in to force it to overtime.”

Georgetown’s failure to nab the game-tying tally was not for a lack of effort. The team had almost exclusive possession of the ball from the point of Riemer’s goal until the final whistle, but Blake and the bunkering Huskies defense managed to stymie attack after attack to preserve the win.

“[We] just kind of ran out of time, we ran out of legs. It’s hard work trying to chase the game like that,” Wiese said.

“I think if we would’ve finished our chances earlier, especially in the first half, the game definitely would’ve opened up and would’ve suited us better,” Christianson added. “It just comes down to us being a little bit sharper. Blake played phenomenally today, but I guess we’ve got to be better.”

An equally tough test awaits the Hoyas on Saturday at No. 10 Notre Dame (9-2-0, 1-2-0), which is led by senior midfielder and longtime U.S. youth national team player Dillon Powers.

“We have to move on very, very quickly mentally,” Wiese said. “And this group so far has been a really mature group. We have a great group of seniors who have handled things really well, so we expect them to be ready again for Saturday.”

Judging by Christianson’s post-game comments, that perception would seem to be spot on.

“We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “Stay hungry, stay humble. If we keep playing how we’ve been playing, I think we can go into South Bend and get a good result there.”

As they do after every game, the Hoyas circled up after Wednesday’s loss as Wiese spoke. And although this time the outcome may have been different, they still, as always, put in their hands and chanted, “1, 2, 3, Red Bull,” in reference to the location of the Big East championship game, Red Bull Arena just outside of Newark, N.J.

Kickoff against Notre Dame is set for tomorrow at 2 p.m. in South Bend, Ind.


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