Charles Nailen/The Hoya Midfielder Nicole Cedar saw substantial playing time as a freshman, but her defensive prowess could earn her more if she shows promise early this season.

For Georgetown women’s soccer, the 2002 season epitomized the cliche, “Close, but no cigar.”

The women posted an 11-7 record overall, tops in the history of the program, and garnered the team’s second-ever Big East Championship berth. The squad’s offensive prowess led the conference for much of the year and teamed with stellar defense during a midseason seven-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 28-4 during that span. Unfortunately, the Hoyas went only 3-3 over the remainder of the regular season and dropped a 1-0 decision to UConn in their first conference tournament game. Afterwards, despite their successes, the Hoyas’ high hopes were dashed whey they were denied their first-ever selection to the NCAA tournament – a trend that Georgetown is determined to reverse in 2003.

Head coach Diane Drake is very optimistic about her team’s future, saying, “We’re right on the edge of being able to break out.” Drake adds that if her team is able to avoid costly injuries and maintain strong leadership, the Hoyas have the ability to put together a remarkable season. “I don’t look at it as being a rebuilding year at all,” Drake adds. “In fact, this is probably the most talented group of players we’ve ever put together.”

Five of the top six scorers from 2002 will be taking the field for Georgetown this season, led by senior captain Jessie Beers-Altman. Her 26 points on 10 goals and six assists established a new single-season high at Georgetown, and the speedy forward was also named to the All-Big East Second Team.

Joining Beers-Altman at forward are the “Mac Attack” – junior Casey McCann and sophomore Shara McNeill. McCann scored seven goals (second on the team) and tallied five assists as a sophomore, while McNeill’s three goals, three assists and solid play at forward and midfield earned her a spot on the All-Big East Rookie Team. Additionally, McNeill was dazzling this spring, finishing as Georgetown’s leading scorer.

The graduation of midfielder Karin Ostrander, ranked second on the all-time school scoring list, will no doubt affect the Hoyas. Nonetheless, led by senior captain Courtney Shaub and junior Nicole DePalma, the midfield position will be among the strengths on the 2003 squad. Shaub has put up 29 points over the last two seasons after transferring from Arkansas and, along with McNeill, is one of the Hoyas’ top one-on-one players.

DePalma put together an excellent all-around season in 2002, putting up 21 points on four goals and 13 assists. Her efforts moved her to second place on the all-time assists list at Georgetown, and were also the sixth most in NCAA Division I women’s soccer last year. Drake added that the Hoyas are looking to freshmen Chrissy Skogen and Cristina Araps for valuable contributions.

On defense, the lineup will be filled with a mix of new and old faces offering a great deal of promise as they look to uphold a strong defense. Graduated defenders Liza Yannuzzi and Casey Hoffman helped the Hoyas hold opposing teams to only 1.49 goals per game and post seven shutouts, but senior captains Lauren Calone and Jen Choiniere should prove to be a particularly solid pairing.

Joining the two captains in the backfield is junior Elizabeth Roberti, who added 12 points last season, as well as a number of talented freshmen – headlined by Shante Cofield, who emerged as a starter in the Hoyas’ first scrimmage.

Sophomore Louisa Butler, coming off a medical redshirt season, will start in goal. After expecting to start in 2002, an injury in the opening game sidelined her for the duration of the season, but she has bounced back quite well. Freshman Erin Mazursky will provide some productive competition with Butler for playing time, helping to solidify the Georgetown back line.

Even with the strength of their team from top to bottom, the women have a number of challenges at hand. While they will seek to duplicate a berth in the Big East Championship, they feel that making it back is not quite sufficient.

“There’s a feeling that it’s just not good enough to be sitting on that bubble [for NCAA Tourney selection] – that we really want to get there [this year],” claims Drake. “If we have twelve wins with the difficulty of our strength of schedule, we’re going to be a very difficult team for the selection committee to ignore.”

When asked about the youth of her team, Drake was undaunted by the test of replacing four contributing seniors: “Despite the fact that we’ve only got seven upperclassmen, we’ve got a lot of sophomores and freshmen. And the sophomores have gained a lot of experience from last year.”

Adding to the excitement in 2003 is a schedule filled with top-notch opponents, including a match at William and Mary in the season opener and a stretch of five Big East contests from late September through early October.

Georgetown was ranked fifth in their division of the Big East in a preseason poll, but as Drake notes, the Mid-Atlantic teams are among the toughest in the conference. “It’s going to be a dogfight . four teams fighting for five spots,” Drake says of the rivalries with West Virginia, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Villanova. “Our goal is very simple, as it is every year, and that is to get back to the Big East Tournament.”

With a repeat of 2002’s defensive performance and key contributions from returning upperclassmen – combined with the additions of a few talented freshman – Georgetown will look to accomplish this goal and move toward the next step: an NCAA Tournament selection.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.