The opportunity to stain an undefeated team’s record is a particularly motivating force. When that undefeated opponent ranks among the best teams in the country, the prospect of delivering that first loss becomes even more exciting.
The Georgetown women’s soccer team (4-3-0) had the chance to tarnish No. 12 Virginia Tech’s record (8-0-1) when the two teams faced off Sunday afternoon. The fact that it was a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to the Hokies in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that ended the Hoyas’ season last year only added fuel to the already burning fire.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game since we played them twice last year and lost both games, so we were really coming out trying to get a win,” graduate student goalkeeper Emma Newins said.
In the first half, both teams had chances to score. Senior forward Crystal Thomas led the way for the Hoyas, tallying all four of the team’s first-half shots and putting each of those shots on goal.
The Hokies took nine shots in the opening period and managed to put four of them on frame. Newins recorded three saves and came off her line on numerous other occasions to quiet the threatening Virginia Tech offense.
“Emma is a very, very good goalkeeper,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said. “We knew this was a game where physically she was going to be questioned because of the nature of how they play. I thought she stood up to it and played really well. She made the saves that we needed her to make when we needed her to make them.”
Newins and the Hoyas were able to keep the Hokies off the scoreboard until the 42nd minute, when a scramble in the six-yard box following a corner kick resulted in a goal for junior midfielder Candace Cephers.
“We had prepared for their corner kicks. We knew that was a big threat for them,” Newins said. “They were just really aggressive and they got on the ball and put it in the back of the net. That’s just their mentality, so it was hard to get the ball out of the box.”
The Hoyas were unable to level the score before the period came to close, but came out firing in the second half, maintaining the majority of the possession and testing the Virginia Tech back line.
The Hoyas were finally able to break down the Hokies’ defense in the 55th minute when junior forward Grace Damaska ran onto a ball played down the right flank and crossed the ball into the six-yard box. Thomas, who was waiting in the box, fired a shot past Virginia Tech’s goalkeeper, tying the match.
“[Damaska] played a perfect ball in front of the face of the goal and I just ran in and kicked it in. It was a good goal and I think we’ll have more coming like that,” Thomas said.
Damaska nearly added a goal of her own in the 69th minute. She ran onto a ball played into the 18-yard box, beating Virginia Tech’s defense for a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. As the goalkeeper came flying off her line, the forward took one stray touch on the ball that gave senior defender Morgan Conklin time to recover and ultimately block Damaska’s shot attempt.
With the score still tied, the match was headed for overtime. However, in the 88th minute Virginia Tech’s junior forward Kallie Peurifoy slotted a ball through the Hoyas’ defense to sophomore forward Laila Gray.
Thinking Gray was in an offside position and expecting a call from the referee, the Hoyas’ defense eased up. But when the whistle did not come, it was too late for Georgetown to recover. Gray fired a shot from 10 yards out that found the back of the net, giving the Hokies a one goal lead with only two minutes left to play.
“Someone called ‘offside’ and we stopped,” Thomas said. “In the future, we won’t do that.”
The Hoyas forced a corner kick as time was running out, giving the team one last opportunity to score. Sophomore midfielder Rachel Corboz played the ball into the box with 40 seconds remaining, but was unable to connect with one of her teammates in front of the net. Virginia Tech’s goalkeeper ultimately scooped up the loose ball and sent a towering dropkick towards midfield as time expired, securing victory for her side.
For the Hoyas, the result was disappointing, but putting up such a strong fight against a very talented Hokies’ side bodes well for the team’s prospects going forward.
“I told [the team] after the game, I’m not one for moral victories. I don’t believe in them because it still doesn’t taste any better. But … I think in some ways this will be a breakout game for this crew,” Nolan said. “It will give them the confidence to know that we can go toe-to-toe pretty much with anybody. I think the kids will come out of it with far more confidence once the disappointment of the result goes away. We’re not going to play anyone better than that for the rest of the season.”
Georgetown will play its next game Friday against University of Central Florida (4-2-1) in Orlando. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m.
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