Extending its unbeaten streak to four games, the Georgetown men’s soccer team defeated the Villanova Wildcats 3-2 Saturday afternoon on Senior Day, keeping the Hoyas in the hunt for a postseason spot going into Thursday’s regular season finale.
Georgetown (6-8-2, 3-3-2 Big East) came out strong to start the first half, with aggressive play giving it an edge in possession. The Hoyas controlled the ball in the offensive half of the field, but solid efforts by the Wildcats’ (9-6-2, 4-3-1 Big East) back four resulted in no goals.
Scoring started in the 27th minute when Villanova senior forward Padriac McCullaugh headed the ball into the net off a cross from the right side. Georgetown stayed persistent on offense despite the setback, and in the 38th minute freshman midfielder Dylan Nealis tied the game off a header from junior midfielder Christopher Lema’s corner kick.
Chances on both sides came at the end of the first half. Sophomore goalkeeper and co-captain J.T. Marcinkowski came up with a kick save in the 42nd minute off Villanova junior midfielder Miguel Polley’s strike from 10 yards out. Then, with 10 seconds left in the half, the Hoyas pushed forward, creating a breakaway chance to score. Junior midfielder Arun Basuljevic struck the ball into the net, but the goal was called off, leaving the game tied at halftime.
Following the intermission, Georgetown dominated the second half. It had a clear advantage in possession and played with more energy.
“All the pieces were really working today. We made them defend for long stretches and I thought we were dangerous in transition,” Georgetown Head Coach Brian Wiese said.
Junior forward Zach Knudson particularly catalyzed the team’s control of the ball with his ability to win one-on-ones against Villanova’s back four.
“We moved off the ball a lot, and were playing really good ones and twos opening up space for the offense to work. It was win or go home, so we knew to give everything or nothing,” Knudson said.
Knudson’s work paid off in the 60th minute when he scored a goal off an uncontested header from Lema’s corner kick, similar to Nealis’ first goal. The 2-1 lead shortly extended to a 3-1 lead on senior midfielder Jon Azzinari’s goal from the middle of the box. He had one man to beat and his kick rolled past the Villanova goalkeeper to extend the Hoyas’ lead.
Georgetown consistently hustled for the loose ball deep in the Villanova zone, which set it up for 14 corner-kick opportunities. Christopher Lema kicked all of them, assisting on the two goals by Nealis and Knudson.
“Lema’s performance overall was fantastic, his ability to hit a good set piece that was dangerous made us focus on just putting it in. We were getting a lot of nonsense off of short stuff against Seton hall so we tried to put it in the box and whip it in and we got two world class goals off of those set pieces,” Wiese said.
Wiese subbed in more players, which led to more energetic play and the three unanswered Georgetown goals. But, in the 80th minute, after a few starters resting, Villanova got past the Hoyas back four and Wildcats freshman defender Conor Bradley executed on a header to cut the Hoyas lead to 3-2.
For the last ten minutes after Bradley’s score, the game’s intensity elevated. Villanova’s reenergized attack pressed to send the game into overtime. Its best chance came in the 85th minute after a header which bounced around and made its way towards the left post. Marcinkowski’s full body dive to hit the ball off the goal line saved the game-tying goal and Georgetown held on to the win.
“[Marcinkowski] made a couple pretty fantastic saves to keep that game from going into overtime,” Wiese said.
Georgetown now moves into the season finale Thursday away at Creighton (8-5-3, 4-3-1), with postseason hopes still alive.
“We’re in a four-game unbeaten streak, I’m confident in my players. I think we’re going to go [into Creighton] and play just as good as today or better,” Lema said.
Wiese feels confident about the team being focused and motivated given the playoff implications, though he stressed a need to be efficient.
“We’re going to need to execute when we get the chances because they’re not going to give us a whole lot,” Wiese said.
A win would leapfrog Georgetown into sixth place in the Big East conference standings.
The regular season finale is set for Thursday at 8 p.m. in Omaha, Neb.
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