Team of the Year | Grit, Leadership Contribute to Highly Successful Season

COURTESY GEORGETOWN  SPORTS INFORMATION Georgetown’s men’s soccer team had a 14-4-5 record in 2014, earneing NCAA tournament wins over Old Dominion and Syracuse before falling to Virginia in penalty kicks in the Elite 8.

Georgetown’s men’s soccer team had a 14-4-5 record in 2014, earneing NCAA tournament wins over Old Dominion and Syracuse before falling to Virginia in penalty kicks in the Elite 8.

Even after battling through a series of difficult opponents, the Georgetown men’s soccer team’s combination of talent and grit earned it consistent success and national recognition, and it has thus been chosen as The Hoya’s 2014-2015 Team of the Year.

The Hoyas played against 10 ranked opponents in 2014, including half of the postseason top 10. Their 14-4-5 overall record came against the best that college soccer had to offer. At the end of that gauntlet, the Hoyas were ranked fifth in the country and had an Elite Eight appearance to their credit.

“It was a really gritty team. It was a really gritty performance. But I think having a record that strong against the strength of schedule that we had was a real accomplishment,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said.

Teams with the amount of talent that is on Georgetown’s roster are not often described as gritty. Among the Hoyas are elite recruits and professional prospects. The team’s style of play — centered on possession and dominating the pace of the game — does not evoke images of scrappy performances and hard-fought results.

Nevertheless, “gritty” perfectly describes what Georgetown had to be in order to find success last season. It battled through fluke deflections, late deficits and a brutal schedule. A core group of athletes built the resilience and work ethic that Georgetown needed.

“You give a lot of credit to the seniors. [Midfielder] Tyler Rudy was the heart and soul of the team. … He carried the team on his back in large stretches. [Midfielders] Austin Martz and Jared Rist had some really key moments. Rist beat Syracuse [with] one of the biggest goals in the history of the program,” Wiese said.

Though Rudy, Martz and Rist were crucial to Georgetown’s success in 2014, none of them was initially expected to be a star. Wiese and his staff did not recruit Rudy until his senior year of high school, and Martz and Rist only began starting and playing regularly in their final seasons at Georgetown.

Of course, the other talent and individual awards on the team cannot be ignored. Georgetown boasted two All-Americans, eight All-Big East selections and two seniors who went on to sign with teams in Major League Soccer. For sophomore defender Joshua Yaro, however, individual success results from the team’s performance.

“When you do something that is not even great, people will think it is great just because of who is around you. Playing with good players makes you a better player,” Yaro said.

For the older members of the team, both the stars and the role players, performing in key moments became the hallmark of the season. Rist’s goal in overtime against Syracuse in the NCAA tournament was one of nine game-winning goals by a junior or senior. That goal would never have happened if not for junior defender and co-captain Keegan Rosenberry’s game-tying goal late in regulation. And of course, Rudy assisted on both.

“I thought it was our older guys, our junior class and our senior class, that really got ahold of the team and said, ‘We aren’t going to allow the team to struggle,’” Wiese said.

Despite finishing the season without any hardware to show for its efforts, Georgetown certainly did not struggle. A 3-1-1 postseason record culminated in a sold-out home game against Virginia for a spot in the NCAA tournament semifinals.

That match ended in heartbreak for the Hoyas. A last-minute equalizer sent the game to overtime. Freshman midfielder Arun Basuljevic, who had a breakout season and earned the Big East Rookie of the Year award, missed his penalty kick, and Georgetown’s season ended just short of the College Cup.
Even after such a difficult defeat, Yaro finds positivity in Georgetown’s performance.

“That’s one of the games where you come out, and you lost, but it felt like a win. The fact was that we went out as a team and did all we could,” Yaro said. “The silver lining is that it is just going to motivate us to go to the College Cup and hopefully win it next year.”

Despite the loss, the 2,000-plus students and fans that saw Georgetown fall had plenty to be proud of that day. The Hoyas’ performance in overtime after giving up the buzzer-beating equalizer summed up what got the team to the quarterfinals in the first place.

“We came back from being behind against Old Dominion in the tournament. We came back from being behind against Syracuse in the tournament,” Wiese said. “Our guys responded to losing that late goal [against Virginia] really, really well.”

The combination of experienced leadership, top talent and resilience in the face of adversity may have fallen short that day, but it was enough to make men’s soccer The Hoya’s 2014-15 Team of the Year.

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