Two teams undefeated in the Big East will clash Saturday as No. 12 Georgetown (6-2-2, 2-0 Big East) takes on No. 21 Butler (6-1-3, 2-0 Big East). The Hoyas and the Bulldogs will meet on Shaw Field at 12:00 p.m. as a part of Homecoming Weekend. The winner will retain at least a share of first place in the conference standings.
Georgetown is entering the match riding a four-game winning streak. After a 0-2-1 start to the season, the team has won six of its last seven matches. Over that time, the Hoyas have averaged 2.4 goals per game, scoring three against UCLA (5-5-0, 1-1-0 Pac-12) and five against Radford (8-1-1, 3-0-0 Big South).
“The team is playing very well, actually,” sophomore midfielder Christopher Lema said. “[We had] a sloppy start, but we all knew the team was better than it has ever been and we were going to come up and just turn the season around.”
Eight different Hoyas have scored this season, and another two have contributed with assists. Senior forward Brandon Allen, the Big East Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, has scored just three times, including twice in the rout of an overmatched Radford side. For Head Coach Brian Wiese, Allen’s lack of goals could actually be a positive for the Hoyas.
“Brandon Allen is yet to hit his stride for scoring goals, which is also potentially a good thing because it will come for him” Wiese said. “If we’re going to have a good, deep run, it is going to be in large part because Brandon is scoring a lot of big goals for us.”
The Georgetown defense has come into form as the season has progressed as well. The back line and freshman goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski has preserved shutouts in the last two matches, both against conference opponents.
Butler also enters Saturday’s contest with a 2-0 record in the Big East and with six wins this season. Much of this success, however, has come against opponents who are much less impressive than those Georgetown has faced. Butler has played against several smaller schools in Indiana and lost 2-1 to Southern Illinois University, Evansville (6-3-1, 1-1 Missouri Valley Conference) in its most recent match.
The Hoyas’ nonconference schedule, on the other hand, featured some of the top teams in the nation. Wiese believes the difficulty of his team’s opponents has helped prepare his players for Big East opponents such as Butler.
“The fact that we went through some hardships early in the season against really good teams … and then being able to right the ship against a team like UCLA and then we haven’t lost since. We are in a really good place mentally with that,” Wiese said.
Nevertheless, the Butler offense has been especially impressive this season, averaging 2.1 goals per game and scoring multiple times in seven of its 10 matches. Senior midfielder Vincent Mitchell has led the offense for the Bulldogs with eight goals this season.
Lema will be one of the keys to stopping this offense. He has taken on the central defensive midfielder role for the Hoyas, a position that was essentially up for grabs at the beginning of the season. Now, Lema has made it his own, standing out with his ability to control the midfield and end opposition attacks before they reach the back line.
“My position is really key, not just in the Butler game, but in most all other games where a team might be pinning us in. Well, I need to be in there and break anything that might be coming our way,” Lema said.
A strong performance from Lema and his teammates Saturday will have a serious impact on the conference title race. With both teams part of a three-way tie with No. 1 Creighton (11-0-0, 2-0-0 Big East) for first place, the meeting will help determine the eventual champion. With this in mind, Georgetown is aware of the importance of the match.
“Huge is a great word for it, I think. … If we can get a win, suddenly Butler is added to that list of chasers. If we don’t win, then we’re chasing Butler,” Wiese said.
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