FILE PHOTO: Jenna Chen/The Hoya Junior midfielder Rachel Corboz has started all nine games this season. She leads the team with 20 points, has scored seven goals and has tallied six assists. She has won multiple Big East Offensive Player of the Week awards.
FILE PHOTO: Jenna Chen/The Hoya
Junior midfielder Rachel Corboz has started all nine games this season. She leads the team with 20 points, has scored seven goals and has tallied six assists. She has won multiple Big East Offensive Player of the Week awards.

The No. 6 Georgetown women’s soccer team (8-1) will open Big East conference play at Shaw Field on Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Providence Friars (6-3-1). The game follows a torrid non-conference run that saw the Hoyas pull off major victories against three top-12 teams in the country.

Georgetown has already been unanimously voted by Big East coaches as the preseason favorite, and the strong results to open the season have ensured the rest of the conference will be looking to upset Georgetown. So far, Georgetown is the only Big East team to receive votes in the NCAA rankings.

The Hoyas are led offensively by the Big East Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and junior midfielder Rachel Corboz, who sits at No. 6 in the country in points scored. Corboz has helped the Hoyas rise to No. 3 in RPI and No. 3 in Soccer America’s women’s college soccer rankings during their current seven-game winning streak.

Head Coach Dave Nolan, though pleased with wins over No. 3 Virginia (8-1, 1-0 ACC) and No. 2 West Virginia (7-1-1), realizes now that the slate is wiped clean.

“We’ve done everything we possibly could at this stage of the season,” Nolan said. “But this now needs to be parked, because now we’re going into conference, where everybody is 0-0. And the good work we have right now, we were three in the RPI this morning, which is incredible. We’ve never been that high. But no matter what we do in conference, that’s going to drop because of our conference. But it’ll drop a lot more if we lose games to teams we should beat.”

Junior midfielder Chloe Knott, who alongside junior midfielder Taylor Pak bosses the defensive midfield for the Hoyas, reiterated Nolan’s sentiment, adding that there does exist some pressure to live up to that preseason favorite title.

“I’m super excited,” Knott said. “We just had a meeting recapping the pre-Big East season, and I had chills in the meeting because we have so much potential to do good things. But we’ve really done nothing yet. We have had some good wins but we’ve done nothing yet. So it’s exciting but scary.”

The winner of the Big East regular season championship and the runner-up each earn a bye to the semifinals of the Big East championship, which, along with the final, will be contested this year at Shaw Field.

The goal right now is to earn the automatic semifinal bid and avoid a quarterfinal match; as Nolan knows after last season, anything can happen in tournament games.

“Our semifinal game against Providence last year in the Big East, if anything, taught me that,” Nolan said. “We should have been up 3-0, 4-0 at halftime, they score a wonder goal, and then it takes everything we have to get it back. And then unfortunately, we go down on PKs. In conference games, everything just has a little bit more importance.”

In addition to the offense producing plenty and the defense benefiting from the return of graduate student defender Marina Paul, another reason for the Hoyas’ success has been the play of sophomore goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman. Schechtman earned the nod for National Player of the Week as well as Big East Goalkeeper of the Week.

The sophomore goalkeeper made eight saves in the win over West Virginia (7-1-1) to break its 30-match home unbeaten run, confidently claiming just about any ball that came into her box. She has already posted four shutouts this season.

Though Georgetown looks ahead to difficult fixtures like Marquette (4-4-2) and DePaul (3-4-2) on its conference schedule, Knott understands the importance of simply focusing on Providence, which has proved a bogey team for Georgetown over the past couple seasons. Games against Providence have reached overtime twice.

“It’s really easy to look ahead and think that not this game, but the next game, is going to be harder,” Knott said. “We do that a lot. It’s hard not to do that … I think last year we did fall into that trap of looking at the games that would have the highest competition, but we can’t do that this year. We don’t want to make the same mistakes and slip up.”

As a junior, this will be Knott’s third time through the Big East schedule. After coming from New Zealand to Georgetown two years ago with no expectations, Hoya soccer has been all she could have asked for.

“I knew obviously it was going to be an amazing experience, but I didn’t know what to expect,” Knott said. “And the fact that I’m best friends with Tay [Pak] and Rachel [Corboz] and we get to play with each other every single game, and work for each other and support each other on and off the field. … I’ve never had that on a team before, and it’s really cool to be able to do that with your best friends.”

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