The women’s soccer team has gotten off to a fast 3-1 start in 2011, as it tries to match last year’s historic run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. The Hoyas’ only loss this season came to No. 2 Stanford last Monday, who is expected to contend for a national title. It hasn’t been all good news for the Blue and Gray, though, as mounting injuries have begun to take their toll.

By Head Coach Dave Nolan’s count, four players were lost before the season even started and three have succumbed to long-term injuries since. Junior Hanna Monson is currently the only fully fit goalie on the roster, sophomore defensive midfielder Kailey Blain is out for the year after suffering an ACL injury in practice just days after scoring twice in the season opener. Sophomore fullback MaryKroenig injured her ankle in the waning moments of the win over Towson and may not play again this year.

“More than anything we need to stay healthy,” Nolan replied when asked about his team’s short-term goals. “Right now we’re down the bare bones … we just can’t afford any more injuries. That could really throw a spanner in the works.”

Despite the injuries, though, the team is still confident in its ability to deal with adversity.

“Every team has to deal with injuries throughout the season,” redshirt senior midfielder Ingrid Wells said. “[But] I think we’re on the right path … we’re getting used to different people on the field in different positions. We’ll work through it.”

“It’s [tough] getting into the groove of things [with] the new players and new positions,” senior forward Camille Trujillo said. “But I feel as the season progresses we’ll be better and we’ll be at the level we were at the end of [last] season.”

A big part of whether the Hoyas can replicate last year’s success will depend on senior midfielder Kelly D’Ambrisi, who Nolan has shifted to the midfield role previously filled by the injured Blain — a significant positional change from the more attacking role D’Ambrisi is used to playing.

Although the offense may well be less effective in the final third when D’Ambrisi plays a more withdrawn role, a player with D’Ambrisi’s dribbling skills and passing vision poses a question that defenses aren’t particularly accustomed to answering.

“Different players are playing in positions they might not be used to,” Wells said. “[But] having someone good at possessing the ball in the center of the midfield helps us a lot.”

“I really like how our front four play when we’ve got Kelly, Ingrid and [freshman Daphe Corboz] coming from midfield and either Camille or [sophomore forward Kaitlin Brenn] up top,” Nolan said. “[But] teams struggle when … defensive center midfielders come out of the back with the ball. That was actually something that gave Stanford a lot of problems.”

Georgetown’s next four games will be its last games against non-conference opponents unless it makes the NCAA tournament — an experience that both coach and players are eager to have again.

“Every game in the Big East is a battle,” Nolan said. “Heading into conference games with a 6-2 record or a 7-1 record, we feel we’d be in a good place for what we want to achieve: [making the] Big East tournament, [having] at least 10 wins and another appearance in the NCAA tournament.”

“That was an amazing experience last year,” Trujillo said. “Hopefully the younger players can [be] a part of that this year … we’re at the level where we can continue to play those high-caliber teams and hopefully get a good result out of it.”

Last weekend’s loss to Stanford — which wasn’t as one-sided as the 4-1 scoreline would indicate — notwithstanding, the Hoyas certainly have the ability to make deep runs in both the conference and NCAA tournaments. But in addition to all the injuries, they now have targets on their backs after last year’s success.

“We can feel the pressure every day,” Trujillo said of the team’s raised national profile. “But Dave has been telling us to [continue] to just take it one game at a time.”

If the Blue and Gray can pull that off while staying relatively healthy, next year’s team could very well be faced with the bittersweet task of dealing with the increased expectations and pressure inspired

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