Chris Bien/The Hoya
Chris Bien/The Hoya

Choosing these Hoyas as the team of the year came down to one thing: The 2010 women’s soccer team made history. The Hoyas finished with a 15-7-2 record, won the program’s first NCAA tournament game and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight, where they finally fell to Ohio State. The season had a little bit of everything — overtime and 89th-minute game-winning goals off corner kicks by junior forward Sam Baker, stellar individual performances from redshirt junior midfielder Ingrid Wells and junior forward Camille Trujillo (who are co-holders of the Georgetown record for points in a season after recording 28 apiece) and great results against national powerhouses like Maryland and Notre Dame.

The season started off auspiciously for the Hoyas, as they conceded just two goals in their first seven games, a stretch that included a 9-0 thrashing of local rival American and a 5-0 rout of Saint Francis.

But after recording their seventh win of the season on Sept. 10, the Blue and Gray hit their first and only extended rough patch of the year when they traveled out to California to face then-No. 11 Santa Clara and then-No. 2 Stanford. A tough 1-0 loss to the Broncos was followed by a 2-0 defeat by the Cardinal, and matters only got worse when the team returned to the East Coast and fell to Rutgers, 1-0.

“That little [slump] after starting out 7-0 [showed us] that this wasn’t all just going to be given to us,” Baker reflected. “I think we all got a little complacent and a little overconfident.”

“We knew they were both going to be tough games,” Trujillo said of the brief West Coast trip. “It was a disappointment, [but] we learned from our mistakes.”

The Hoyas did not let the poor stretch get to them, though, displaying a resiliency that served them well later on. They went 6-2-1 to close out the season, and on Senior Day tied eventual national champions Notre Dame.

“Being able to play Notre Dame on our senior day and tie them … really gave us confidence going into the postseason games that if we are all on and all playing our best game we [could] play with anyone,” senior defender Michaela Buonomo said. “Being able to go toe-to-toe with Notre Dame gave us the confidence that we didn’t have to fear anyone. … As long as we were on we could be as good as the best team in the nation.”

Head Coach Dave Nolan also saw his team take a big step that day, one that laid the foundation for its unprecedented NCAA success.

“At that point I felt we could play with anyone,” Nolan said. “I felt there wasn’t a team we couldn’t go on the field with. … I’d been telling them all year what a good team they were, but I think that was the time when they finally [realized], ‘Wow, we really are a good team.'”

But the Hoyas couldn’t find the back of the net in their first postseason game against a South Florida team they had comfortably beaten 3-1 earlier in the year and were sent crashing out of the Big East tournament when the Bulls scored with two minutes left in the second overtime.

“We had to re-evaluate and come back together after the South Florida game,” Buonomo said. “After that game we realized [that] if we really wanted to make this the season that all the seniors and our entire team wanted, the NCAA tournament was where we had to do that.”

Georgetown ended up matched against the 17-win MAAC champion Siena Saints in the first round of the national tournament, with a possible second-round game against beltway rival Maryland looming.

“Losing to South Florida crushed me,” Wells said. “When we did [get into NCAAs] it was like, ‘This is your second chance.'”

This year marked only the second time that a Georgetown women’s soccer team had qualified for the NCAA tournament; this year’s seniors had been freshmen on the first Blue and Gray team to make the field of 64. The Hoyas’ experience paid off, as they kept their cool and cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Saints.

“After we won against Siena, [Nolan said] we shouldn’t think that since last time we ‘just’ made NCAAs and this time we won our first game [that] our goal was accomplished,” Wells said.

Top-seeded Maryland dispatched its first-round opponent with relative ease as well, meaning the Hoyas would have to do it the hard way — and on the Terrapins’ home turf, no less — if they wanted to keep rewriting the Georgetown record books. The Hoyas, however, remained undaunted and went into the game with self-belief bred from experience and the confidence that comes with familiarity.

“Every spring we would play [Maryland], and it was a fair match,” Trujillo said. “We just wanted to go out there and prove to them that we were just as good [as they were].”

“We weren’t even supposed to be competition for [Maryland]. … They were already looking at the Sweet 16,” Baker said. “[Nolan said], ‘They think they’re going to beat you. … They’re already looking at next weekend. Let’s show them they need to concentrate on us. We’re a force to be reckoned with.'”

The Blue and Gray certainly proved their mettle in that game, unabashedly attacking like they had against Notre Dame rather than sitting back and defending. The strategy paid off when Trujillo directed the ball into the back of the net off a rebound minutes into the second half, stunning the Terrapins and their fans. The goal invigorated the Hoyas, who continued to press and search for another goal, but it was the hosts who scored the only other goal of the game to tie things up in the 64th minute. The scoreline remained level throughout the rest of regulation and two overtimes.

In the penalty kick shootout, it was up to senior goalie Jackie DesJardin to be the hero for the Hoyas. DesJardin saved the first two penalties she faced, and the Blue and Gray escaped from College Park with a historic win when the Terrapins’ fourth spot-kick caromed off the goalpost and away.

The Hoyas avoided a letdown in their next game, travelling to chilly Minnesota to face a Golden Gophers team that had also reached the Sweet 16 via upset. The game was scoreless until the 89th minute when Baker stepped up to take a corner and inadvertently shot it directly into the net past a stunned crowd of Minnesota defenders. It was the fourth time that the junior had scored via corner kick during the year, and it held up as the game-winner and propelled the team to the Elite Eight.

“As you go on a run you pick up momentum, you get a little bit of belief, you get a couple breaks, and all of a sudden you’re in a place you’ve never been before,” Nolan said. “Once you get to the big dance, anything can happen, and I think we were living proof of that.”

The magic ran out in the next round in Columbus, though, as Ohio State ended the Hoyas’ historic NCAA run with a 2-0 victory. With the disappointment of that result now in the past, Nolan and his players know that what they did accomplish was a huge step in the right direction for a program that as of five years ago had never been to the NCAA tournament.

“I do feel we’ve done something special,” Nolan said. “The perception around our program has started to change. People have us as this top-25 kind of program and this elite soccer program, but it’s all new territory for us.”

With an increased profile, though, will come increased attention from opposing teams.

“No one really thought we would get this far, but we did,” Trujillo said. “It puts a target on our back next year, but I think with the motivation and strength we have … we’ll continue to do well.”

“We certainly know going into next year how difficult it’s going to be to try and beat that,” Nolan said of his team’s 2010 results. “We’ve raised the bar considerably. … That’s why you have to respect [elite teams] … because every year they get everyone’s best shot.”

Nolan is not letting his team’s success change his ways, though. Never one for grand predictions or setting specific long-term goals, he’s primarily concerned with keeping his team focused and hoping the results take care of themselves.

“The goal is every day to get better,” he said. “I’d be very excited if we could make the Final Four of the Big East tournament, and I’d be ecstatic if we could get back to the NCAAs.”

Nolan’s expectations might be humble, but it’s safe to say that his players, having had a taste of NCAA success, don’t intend to wait another three years to make it back to the tournament.

“I don’t think it would be acceptable for us to not make NCAAs next year after what we did this year,” Wells said. “I think we have to hold ourselves to high expectations.”

“I know we could’ve given Notre Dame a run for their money,” Baker declared. “That motivates me to get back and [prove] last season wasn’t a fluke. We made it to the Elite Eight. We deserved to be there. We deserved to go farther, [and] we’re one of the top teams in the nation.”

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