FILE PHOTO: JULIA HENNRIKUS/THE HOYA Junior forward Grace Damaska has scored four goals on 20 shots and has assisted three others for the Hoyas, giving her a team-leading 11 points so far in the 2015 season.
Junior forward Grace Damaska has scored four goals on 20 shots and has assisted three others for the Hoyas, giving her a team-leading 11 points so far in the 2015 season.

The Georgetown women’s soccer team (5-4-0) will begin Big East play this Sunday when it travels to Providence, R.I. to take on the Providence Friars (7-3-0). The Big East preseason coaches’ poll projected that the Hoyas will finish third in the conference standings this season, while the Friars were ranked fifth.

The Hoyas will come into the game following a mixed result in last weekend’s trip to Florida. Georgetown suffered a 3-1 loss to the University of Central Florida (5-2-1), before defeating Stetson (5-4-1) in a lopsided 4-0 result.

“I feel in the game against Central Florida on Friday, even though we lost, we created enough chances to win the game. The disappointing thing was that we dug ourselves a hole by going down three goals and that’s a tough hole to dig yourself out of against a top-25 team,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said.

“Against Stetson … I think the kids were very determined. They were disappointed with the game on Friday. We scored four goals and we probably could have scored another four,” Nolan said.

In their matchup with the Friars, the Hoyas’ defense will have to be particularly cognizant of senior forward Catherine Zimmerman, who was selected as one of two Big East Preseason Co-Offensive Players of the Year. Zimmerman currently leads the Big East standings with 53 shots.

“I know her very well, she is very good player. She is rightly one of the best attacking players in the conference,” Nolan said of Zimmerman. “We just have to make sure when she gets the ball we’re aware of her and we want to make sure that in certain parts of the field, we can get some help to our first defender that engages her.”

Although Zimmerman’s 53 shots are more than double the number taken by any of her teammates, she has struggled so far this season to turn those scoring opportunities into goals. In fact, it is junior forward Rachel Ugolik, not Zimmerman, who leads the Friars in scoring, with four goals on the season compared to Zimmerman’s three.

However, two of Zimmerman’s three goals have been game-winners, demonstrating that despite her seemingly low offensive production, she has still managed to find the back of the net when the game is on the line.

Georgetown will look to counter Providence’s talented goal scorers with a balanced offensive attack of its own. The Hoyas’ starting forwards, graduate student Audra Ayotte, junior Grace Damaska and senior Crystal Thomas, have shown impressive play around the goal. Combined, the three have scored 11 of the team’s 18 goals this season. In addition, sophomore midfielder Rachel Corboz and freshman forward Caitlin Farrell have added solid production on offense.

“We create chances. The attacking quartet that we have between Grace, Crystal, Rachel, Audra and even with Caitlin Farrell coming off the bench, we’ve got some players that can create chances,” Nolan said.

The Hoyas have also received significant offensive contributions from sources other than their forwards. Sophomore defender Taylor Pak has tallied three goals and one assist this season. Corboz has scored two goals, one of which was a game winner, and has assisted three others.

“Rachel is like our quarterback. She is young, and this is her first season playing at this position. Last season, she played a little bit further out, a little bit wider, which gave her more space and gave her more freedom,” Nolan said. “This year she is in the middle of the park, where most of the pressure is, and she is getting special treatment by teams. She is being man-marked. She is getting double-teamed. … I think she is still trying to figure it out. But Rachel is our quarterback.”

Georgetown knows that the stakes are always higher once Big East play begins, and the team will look to rise to the occasion Sunday.

“It’s the Big East. Every game becomes a six-pointer because not only if you lose it do you lose three points, but you lose head to head with that team,” Nolan said. “It’s going to be a tough start for us to have these first two games on the road for us against Providence and Villanova.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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