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Sophomore midfielder Caitlin Durkee

Georgetown will continue to face down a tough schedule this weekend, as the Hoyas take on the Syracuse Orange this afternoon and the St. John’s Red Storm on Sunday. The Hoyas will have home-field advantage for both contests, but the team has been able to blaze through even the trickiest of road matchups this season, defeating archrival and Big East powerhouse Villanova two weeks ago and Seton Hall last weekend. The Hoyas head into the weekend with an impressive record of 8-0-2, but the competition will be fierce as always this weekend.

“It’s Big East soccer,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said. “You never get a chance to rest on your laurels. You’ve got to be ready to play the next game that comes along.”

The Syracuse squad is carrying a record of 4-4-2 thus far this season as they transition under a new head coach. Phil Wheddon took the reins at the start of this season, and he has set to work reworking the Orange’s playing style. Wheddon has made keeping possession of the ball one of his team’s main goals, allowing for a more offensively driven team unit.

“The Syracuse game will be interesting,” Nolan said. “They’ve made a lot of improvements this year. Last week they got shelled by West Virginia, but I think they’re better than that.”

And while the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry isn’t quite as fierce as it is on the basketball court, Nolan said that there are still some interesting undercurrents in this matchup. “There are a lot of intangibles in this game,” he said. “Both Syracuse captains played for my club team for five years, and two Syracuse players played with [seniors] Alex Gargano and Nicole Smith. So there’s a lot of sub-rivalries, and the kids will be fired up to go.”

The Syracuse back line is the team’s strength. The squad’s defensive unit boasts three strong returnees – Karrah Benson, Lauren Cappelli and Sarah VanSickle – a trio that held its Big East opponents to one goal or less in 12 contests last season. The Orange also have a strong goaltender in Eliza Bennett-Hattan. The sophomore recorded 104 saves as a freshman last season – the second most by any goalie in Syracuse’s history.

“At this point [Syracuse] has played more of a defensive [style],” Nolan said. “They try to lull you forward, make you impatient and then take advantage of your mistakes. I think it’s going to be tough to break them down, because I don’t think they’re going to come out and play. But you just don’t know, they might see something in us that they think they can get a run at.”

After facing Syracuse, Georgetown will take on St. John’s at North Kehoe Field on Sunday. The Red Storm heads into the weekend with a season record of 4-2-4, and both of the squad’s losses were by only one goal. Head Coach Ian Stone resides over an experienced team this season, with 18 upperclassmen on the roster.

“St. John’s is going to be a difficult team,” Nolan said. “They play good soccer, and they’re very well-coached. Ian does a good job setting his team up to play on game day.”

The Red Storm’s defensive back line is particularly strong. Led by a trio of juniors – Tara Mendoza, Courtney Lane and Vaila Barsley – the squad’s defensive creation aims to continue the strong play of last season, during which they compiled eight shutouts and allowed .85 goals on average. Mendoza and Barsley were also all-Big East defensive selections last season. St. John’s goaltender, Rebecca Capinera, is a senior beginning her first season as the starting goalie.

St. John’s earned an important result two weeks ago when they tied 0-0 with West Virginia, but the Red Storm followed it up with a loss to Pittsburg last weekend. Still, Nolan thinks the team will still be tricky to play. “St. John’s is a lot like Rutgers,” he said. “They play good soccer, and they let us play. Rutgers was very good, so I think we’ll see a similar game to that.”

The Hoyas kick off what promises to be another exciting weekend of soccer today at 3 p.m. on North Kehoe Field.

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