Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Seniors Chase Final Postseason Dream

Four years ago, Head Coach Brian Wiese went out into the high school soccer world to recruit his first class of players to Georgetown after taking over for former Head Coach Keith Tabatznik, the longest tenured (1984-2005) and most successful (220-178-22) coach in program history.


Wiese came back with 11 young men from seven different states: goalkeepers Matthew Brutto and Mark Wilber; defenders Ben Slingerland, Alex Verdi and Ibu Otegbeye; midfielders Rob Burnett, Seth C’deBaca and Mostafa Ebrahimnejad; and forwards Chandler Diggs, Tom St. George and Jose Colchao.




With the exception of Ebrahimnejad, all of them remain on the current roster.




“It was a bigger class than we anticipated, but we found a way to get some great kids in here,” Wiese said of the class of 2011. “There were no guys in the class that were real high-profile kids. . But we had kids that we thought had a lot of great tools.”




C’deBaca, the Hoyas’ starting right midfielder, strongly considered going to Notre Dame while Wiese was an assistant there in 2005, until the coach moved to Georgetown in 2006. He remembers one particular recruiting activity that Wiese engaged him with during a visit to the Hilltop and one that the head coach uses frequently with recruits.




“One of the first things we did was going on a bike ride together,” C’deBaca said, holding back laughter. “We had our helmets on and everything, going around D.C., showing me all the monuments. I thought that was pretty funny.”




C’deBaca’s four-year roommate, Slingerland, was treated to a Wisey’s brunch with Wiese on the Car Barn patio during his visit. He recalls the vision Wiese shared with him of the program the coach wanted to build at Georgetown, but bringing that vision to life was easier said than done.




“I think anything you have to work a little harder for is that much more rewarding,” Slingerland said. “And that’s kind of the story of our careers.”




As freshmen in 2007, this year’s senior class struggled through a 1-4 start and an eventual 7-11-1 finish. After a 4-0 loss to South Florida in the first round of the Big East tournament that season, achieving the goal of a conference title seemed a long way off.




“I think it’s definitely been a journey. We’ve seen the lowest of lows,” Slingerland said. “But now we’re finally seeing the rewards of our work.”




Just eight days ago, Slingerland and his classmates – still the largest recruiting class of Wiese’s Georgetown career – celebrated the program’s first Big East regular season championship since 1994.




“It’s satisfying for me to see them succeed,” Wiese said of the seniors. “I’m really enjoying [it], because they do work hard.”




For the first time in his five seasons on the Hilltop, Wiese (44-40-7) is coaching a team entirely comprised of his own recruits, and that homogeneity is paying dividends. Georgetown (11-5-1) enters its Big East quarterfinal matchup with Providence (10-5-2) tomorrow as the No. 1 seed from the Blue Division. They are ranked 25th nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and 15th in RPI, essentially guaranteeing them a spot in this year’s NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997.




“I think all 11 of us came to this school because we wanted to get to the point we are now,” C’deBaca said about his class. “The celebration after [we won] the league title made it all worth it, all the struggles.”




Through all of the ups and downs of their four-year careers, including three empty trips to the Big East tournament, the seniors have remained a cohesive group. There are unique individuals in the bunch, such as biology major and academic All-American Wilber and his roommate, St. George, a member of ROTC and aspiring pilot – but the class gets along well even with its collage of personal interests.




“Being a large class like we are, it’s pretty easy to split apart,” Slingerland said. “But I think we’ve done a pretty good job of staying together as a group over the four years and just continuing to work at getting better.”




Aside from the sheer size of the class, on-field issues – specifically this year’s lineup changes – have also presented challenges to the seniors’ camaraderie. Wilber, who split time with Brutto in goal last season, has been used almost solely as a reserve this year; Otegbeye, the team’s starting right back at the beginning of the season, now comes off the bench for Burnett, who has moved from holding midfielder to the backline to make way for freshman Joey Dillon; Verdi, a team captain and long-time staple at centerback, has been replaced in the starting lineup by Slingerland, who had appeared in only five games and started once for Georgetown coming into the season.




“I think the guys have all responded really well to their bits of adversity,” Wiese said. “Sling’s the most prominent example of a guy who’s just been working away and things have fallen his way, and it’s great to see him have the success he’s had this year. Those are the fun ones to watch.”




This season’s arrival of senior midfielder Henry Tembon, a transfer from the University of Virginia, is another testament to the unified nature of the senior class.




“He’s meshed into the group seamlessly,” Slingerland said of Tembon, who has appeared in all 17 of the Hoyas’ games this season and recorded three assists.




But for all of the seniors, the onset of November and the Big East tournament signals that their days in Georgetown uniforms are numbered. At the same time, their playoff lives and the length of their runs in the conference and national tournaments are in their hands.

“It’s definitely a sense of now-or-never, kind of a desperation-type feeling, which I think is good,” Slingerland said. “I think we play well when our backs are against the wall.”




Whatever happens over the course of the next few weeks, the class of 2011 has already helped the Hoyas surpass expectations and accomplish feats that hadn’t been reached by the program in more than a decade. They have contributed to a renewed winning culture at Georgetown, and their achievements may be felt for long after they graduate.




“The best legacy any group can leave is a higher standard for a program,” Wiese said. “And hopefully that’s what the senior class is doing.”

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