From the moment the ball left senior forward Grace Damaska’s foot, the outcome of Sunday’s Big East championship final was no longer in doubt.
In the 22nd minute, Damaska unleashed a rocket from 25 yards out that slammed off the underside of the bar and ricocheted into the net. The goal stood up to give the No. 7 Georgetown women’s soccer team (16-2-3, 6-1-2 Big East) its first ever Big East championship trophy, defeating top-seeded Marquette (12-7-2, 7-2 Big East) by a 2-0 scoreline.
The Hoyas outshot the Golden Eagles 16-1 over the 90 minutes, and the midfield successfully stifled any hope of a Marquette comeback.
“This was too good a team not to win a Big East championship, regular season or conference,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said. “And I knew from when they left the team room this morning, if we didn’t win it wouldn’t have been because we weren’t ready.”
For Damaska, playing in her last Big East game, the previous tournament losses made this victory all the sweeter.
“I’m going to try not to cry,” Damaska said. “It feels surreal. To be at home, to do it in front of my parents and my aunt, it’s just unbelievable. You can’t beat this. It’s amazing.”
Georgetown’s tournament history before this weekend had not been an enjoyable one, with four semifinal trips in the last four seasons all coming to naught. Four years ago the Hoyas lost to the Golden Eagles 1-0 in the final on an 87th-minute goal, and two years later they fell 2-0 to the DePaul Blue Demons (10-6-3, 7-2-0 Big East) in the final.
But on Sunday, it was all smiles at Shaw Field.
“It’s been a monkey on our back now for a few years,” Nolan said. “But it’s not easy to win, it’s a great conference. Every year there’s always one or two really good teams, and we’ve usually been one of the two and we’ve just come up a little bit short on occasion. So today was our day.”
Up 1-0 at halftime, the Hoyas did not let up in the second frame.
In the 52nd minute, junior midfielder Chloe Knott won a tackle, played give-and-go with sophomore forward Amanda Carola before hitting the ball off the inside of the post. However, junior midfielder Rachel Corboz was there off the rebound to strike the back of the net for the proverbial nail in the coffin.
Knott said this game and its result is why the Hoyas put such an effort in practice, long lifts, improving skills — in short, why they sweat.
“Friday was a different game,” Knott said, referring to the Big East semifinal against DePaul (10-6-3, 7-2 Big East). “Friday was very scrappy. Today we were so determined. Everything we knew we had to win, this was the 90 minutes that mattered most from the whole season.”
Friday’s semifinal had proven a much tenser affair, with Georgetown leveling in the 66th minute thanks to a finish by graduate student Marina Paul. The game headed to double overtime and beyond, as the Hoyas inched past the Blue Demons 5-4 in the penalty shootout.
After the final, Nolan praised Knott, comparing her to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante with her work rate and ability to make the crucial tackle to cut out chances in defensive midfield. In addition, Nolan praised the character of the team.
“They’re a great bunch of kids,” Nolan said. “I’m blessed, we’ve had so many great teams over the years, and so many wonderful kids. But this group, last year and this year, have been a lot of fun. They just come every day and work hard, and they never give you an ounce of concern.”
Thanks to her stunning finish, Damaska took home the award for Most Outstanding Offensive Player of the tournament. On the goal, she was surprised to find herself in such a large amount of space near the box.
“I noticed they weren’t really defending me, they were stepping off of me. I don’t really know why they were doing that,” Damaska said. “But if they’re going to step off me, I’m going to shoot the ball. And it went in.”
Paul won the Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the tournament, and Corboz, along with junior midfielder Taylor Pak and junior defender Liz Wenger, were named with Damaska to the All-Tournament Team.
The win gives the Hoyas 16 on the season, which ties the team record for wins in a year. Georgetown will look to break that record in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, for which the Big East Championship victory automatically qualified the Hoyas.
Georgetown will be seeded second in its bracket and will play St. Francis of Pennsylvania (10-11, 6-2 Northeast Conference) at Shaw Field on Sunday at 12 p.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
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