The Georgetown women’s soccer team (7-4, 2-0 Big East) has only played two conference games so far in 2015, but it may be already preparing for its biggest game of the regular season.
The Hoyas will welcome the St. John’s Red Storm (11-1, 3-0 Big East) to Shaw Field on Thursday for a showdown between two of the three remaining Big East teams that are undefeated in conference play.
The Hoyas are coming off a dominant 5-1 win over Villanova (1-11, 0-3 Big East) Oct. 1. Junior forward Grace Damaska scored two goals to increase her team-leading total to six, while senior forward Crystal Thomas, sophomore midfielder Rachel Corboz and sophomore defender Taylor Pak added one apiece.
Graduate student goalkeeper Emma Newins made three saves in the win and noted the strong play of the Hoyas’ substitutes, including freshman midfielder Meghan Shaver and sophomore forward Leah McCullough.
“We were able to score a lot of goals, which was nice, so hopefully that will transition over to the St. John’s game as well,” Newins said. “I thought we were more organized throughout the field, and we got more people off the bench. Meghan Shaver and Leah McCullough came in, and they were able to perform just as well as the starting group.”
Georgetown will now shift its focus to one of the strongest teams in the Big East. St. John’s enters Thursday’s game riding a seven-game win streak, including conference wins over Marquette, Butler and Seton Hall.
Senior forward Rachel Daly has wreaked havoc on defenses all season, recording 11 goals, the most of any player in the Big East. Daly set school records in goals and points in her team’s most recent game, a 3-0 win over Marquette, and has captured the attention of Georgetown’s coaching staff and players.
“They have a really good forward, Rachel Daly, and I’m sure we’ll prepare for her. I’m not sure what way yet, but we’re going to need to limit her shots on goal. She’s a very good player,” Newins said.
Georgetown Head Coach Dave Nolan has a great deal of respect for St. John’s, and highlighted Daly, redshirt senior defender Georgia Kearney-Perry and junior goalkeeper Diana Poulin as Red Storm players to watch.
“This is their year. If they’re going to have a breakout year nationally, it’s this year,” Nolan said. “They have the Big East Offensive Player of the Year who’s leading the conference in scoring with 11 goals in Rachel Daly, they have the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in Georgia Kearney-Perry who’s an outstanding center back and leader on the field and they have the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year in Diana Poulin.”
While the Red Storm will represent a stiff test for the Hoyas, the win over Villanova sends Georgetown into the game with a solid amount of momentum. The Hoyas will look to extend their winning streak to four games.
“You know, it’s going to be a very, very difficult game,” Nolan said. “But we’re good too.”
After some initial adjustments, the Hoyas’ new-look offense has begun to gel as the players familiarize themselves with one another. Damaska, Corboz, Thomas, Pak and graduate student forward Audra Ayotte have each scored four or more goals, demonstrating a balanced offensive approach.
“Grace’s speed is just unmatched in our conference, and that helps her get away from defenders. Crystal just works so hard, she’s probably the hardest worker on our team, so they’re both doing very well,” Newins said.
The game will have added importance because of the format of the Big East tournament, which grants a bye to the two teams that finish with the best records in the conference. The winner of the tournament receives a highly coveted automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, so Nolan has an eye on the long-term implications of Thursday’s game.
“Right now it’s the biggest game on our schedule, because A: it’s our next game up, and B: to win the Big East championship, it’s a lot easier if you can finish in the top two in the division, which means that you avoid a play-in game, the extra unnecessary game. And right now, everybody is jockeying to finish in those top two spots,” Nolan said.
Georgetown will face St. John’s at 3 p.m. Thursday on Shaw Field.
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