WOMEN'S SOCCER | Menges Leads the Way on Defense
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 23:09
The Georgetown women’s soccer team (10-1-1, 4-0 Big East) continues to do the improbable. Going into this weekend’s game at Pittsburgh (5-7-1, 0-3-1 Big East), Head Coach Dave Nolan couldn’t help but look back at how far this group has come.
“I knew we would be okay because in the springtime, we managed to do quite well considering what we had lost,” Nolan said. “It was just a matter of ‘Can we get a little bit of momentum going?’ And I think that’s key.”
That momentum has been built as a result of outstanding defensive work all season long. If one discounts the 6-0 loss to Stanford as an anomaly, the Blue and Gray have allowed only three goals in 11 games, otherworldly numbers that Nolan attributes to the experience of the backline and its midfield support.
“They’re older. Emily [Menges] is a junior now, Mary Kroening is a junior, Alexa St. Martin is a junior [and] Claire Magliola is a senior, so that’s helped. Really, the only rookie back there is Emma [Newins] in goal.”
For the second consecutive time, a Georgetown defender was honored as Big East defensive player of the week; this time around, it was junior captain Menges, who led the Hoyas to back-to-back shutouts last weekend. Nolan had only the highest praise for his center back.
“I may be biased, but I think she’s the best defender in our conference,” Nolan said. “I haven’t seen a better defender in the country.”
Georgetown’s next test will come when it travels to Pittsburgh, a team that — despite its mediocre record and five consecutive winless games — could prove dangerous.
“They’re an interesting team because they seem to be up and down,” Nolan said. “They had a great performance against Notre Dame on Friday night, then went down on Sunday against DePaul and maybe didn’t have the same energy.”
Last year, the Hoyas defeated the Panthers at North Kehoe Field, 6-0, but Nolan feels that game was closer than the score indicated. And armed with a new coach, Pittsburgh could be set to play spoiler on a home field at which they are 2-1 thus far.
According to Nolan, there is another variable that could come into play as well.
“The big plus for us is that they play Villanova Friday night and we don’t play, and then they have to turn around and play us Sunday,” he said. “Whether that’s good for us and we’ll be refreshed, or maybe we won’t be as sharp, I don’t know. But I’m not expecting an easy game on the road.”
Junior defender Alexa St. Martin, who missed last Sunday’s game as a precaution after an injury in warm-up, is expected to be back in the starting lineup. Freshman Neela Mohan — who made her first career start in place of the junior — was impressive as well, and she could be a valuable player down the road.
“First and foremost she’s a great kid and she has a wonderful attitude. She wears a hard hat coming to work every day,” Nolan said of Mohan. “We kind of threw her in the deep end of the pool, and she learned to swim really quickly. But she was great, and she’s a kid that’s always available to play when we need her. “
Following Sunday’s contest, the Blue and Gray enter a tough final stretch with five games in three weeks against teams with a combined 29-21-5 record.
“We’ll get through this weekend hopefully going to Pitt and getting the win, and after that we worry about the next five,” Nolan said. “But we’ve got four of the next six on the road, and that’s not easy.”
The Hoyas take on the Pirates on Sunday at 1 p.m. as the first stop on their three-game road marathon.