Usually this season the seniors have been leading the way for No. 4 Georgetown (9-3, 5-1 ECAC), but on Saturday, the sophomores were the ones spearheading the Hoyas’ victory. The sophomore class combined for eight goals and six assists to lead Georgetown to a 13-7 victory over Rutgers (5-7, 3-3) Saturday in Piscataway, N. J.

“At this point in the year, [we’re] basically a year older than when we started,” sophomore attacker Craig Dowd said. “Everyone should be stepping up at this point.”

The Hoyas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead thanks to first-quarter goals by junior midfielder Todd Cochran, sophomore midfielder Andrew Brancaccio and junior long-stick midfielder Stevie Bauer.

Rutgers, who managed five shots on goal on senior goalkeeper Miles Kass in the first quarter to no avail, opened the scoring in the second with a goal by sophomore midfielder Erik Stilley to cut the lead to 3-1.

inutes later, Georgetown senior attacker and leading scorer (45 points on 23 goals and 21 assists) Brendan Cannon went down with a sprained ankle, leaving the Hoyas without their most dangerous weapon. Dowd, who has been playing behind the opposing team’s goal this season much like Cannon did last season, picked up the slack left by his fallen comrade, dishing out four assists in the second quarter, including a Steve Nash-like two assists in 12 seconds to end the half.

“Brendan’s our lead guy, so with him going down, a bunch of other people had to step it up more than usual,” Dowd said. “Things just started falling the right way for the whole team.”

The absence of Cannon also meant that freshman attacker Ryan Shuler, who has shown great promise this season, was forced to fill the vacancy.

“Ryan stepped up and did a real nice job,” Head Coach Dave Urick said. “It was obvious that in practice he is much more comfortable down on the attack so we put him in there.”

Sophomore attacker Ricky Mirabito also broke through in the second quarter, scoring two goals in the final 90 seconds including one on an extra-man opportunity with 32 seconds left in the half to put the Blue and Gray up 9-2.

Rutgers opened the second half with back-to-back goals by junior midfielder Jeff Rommel and sophomore midfielder Justin Pennington to narrow the lead to 9-4.

“He’s a heck of a player,” Urick said of Pennington. “We wanted to keep him from having a career day and we did. He scored some goals, but we limited him.”

The rest of the third quarter belonged to the Georgetown sophomores as Dowd added two more assists and Chris Schuville, Mirabito and Brancaccio all scored goals – the last two on extra-man opportunities – to increase the lead to 12-4.

Urick said he was concerned coming into the game about the underrated Rutgers team, especially after last season, when the Hoyas needed five fourth-quarter goals to win in a game despite faceoff specialist Christiaan Trunz’s 20-of-23 performance at the X. Trunz’s heir, senior midfielder Dan Vinson, may not have dominated like his predecessor, but he managed to win 13-of-23 faceoffs.

“Vinny won his fair share of faceoffs and won over 50 percent, and that was important for us,” Urick said.

Another important factor was groundballs, which Urick has stressed to his team since the Loyola loss two weeks ago – a game in which they had 30 groundballs to the Greyhounds’ 33. The Hoyas have improved dramatically in groundballs the past two weekends. Georgetown dominated Massachusetts on the ground, 47 to 21, last week and had more of the same against the Scarlet Knights, winning 34 to 19.

“[Coach Urick] really emphasizes the whole groundball thing lately, especially after the Loyola game,” Dowd said. “People are just working hard, and things are going our way right now.”

Rutgers outscored the Hoyas 3-1 in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late as Georgetown held on for the 13-7 victory.

Now Georgetown, which must rely on a postseason berth from the NCAA selection committee, will look toward their regular season finale with Penn State. A loss would likely eliminate the Hoyas from the postseason, while a victory would leave them in good standing with the committee. The Hoyas are ranked fourth in both major polls, but Urick knows that the pollsters are not the committee.

“I tell our guys not to pay attention to the USILA poll where we’re ranked fourth,” he said. “That has nothing to do with the committee. They focus on the RPIs and those other computer rankings. We just need to keep winning.”

The Hoyas travel to Penn State this Saturday for a 1 p.m. matchup at Jeffrey Field.

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