Two years ago, midfielder Ian Christianson felt the weight of a program on his shoulders. With his team trailing DePaul in a penalty kick shootout in the first round of the Big East tournament, the then-freshman had the chance to keep his team – and the collegiate careers of its seniors – alive.
But Christianson failed. His attempt sailed over the crossbar, the Blue Demons celebrated on North Kehoe Field, and the Hoyas’ season was over.
“I don’t know what’s lower than blowing it for your team,” said Christianson, now a junior. “It was very frustrating, very disappointing.”
Head Coach Brian Wiese, however, took something else away from that painful miss.
“To his credit, for a freshman … to take responsibility for a whole team and say, ‘I’m willing to miss this … and suffer the blow that that’s going to be.’ For someone at that time to do that, I think, says a lot about his leadership, his character, his confidence and his ability,” he said.
All of those qualities influenced Wiese’s decision to insert Christianson into the starting lineup as a freshman in the first place. With the tall, lanky midfielder from Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the starting 11, the 2009 Hoyas started 7-3-1 and were well on their way to an NCAA tournament berth. But after Christianson went down with a sprained knee in early October, Georgetown lost five of its last six regular season contests before being ousted by DePaul in his first full game back.
It takes a certain type of person and player to rebound from that low to become a captain of the defending Big East Blue Division champions. But that’s where Christianson finds himself today.
“I don’t want to sound conceited, but I have a pretty solid self-confidence,” Christianson said. “I can’t say I’m surprised, but at the same time I’m grateful and humbled. I still haven’t reached what I want to reach yet, so I have to keep working hard every day.”
That personal goal for Christianson is to play professional soccer either in the United States or abroad. As last year’s Big East midfielder of the year and a second-team All-American, he’s on the right track – exactly where Wiese expected him to be all along.
“I saw him play as a [high school] junior in a tournament down in Disney,” Wiese said. “I watched him play for about 20 minutes, and then he sprained his ankle and didn’t play the rest of the tournament.”
Some coaches might have written off a skinny recruit like Christianson under those circumstances, but Wiese was ecstatic about the injury.
“I knew no one else was going to see this kid play, and that’s great for us,” he said. “We recruited him from that moment on.”
Four years later, that rolled ankle appears to be the twist of fate that could bring the Georgetown’s men’s soccer program to heights it has never seen before.
“He was our first [recruit] that we were saying, ‘He might change things around for the team. He’s going to be important if we can get him here,'” Wiese said. “And he is.”
It was evident even during his freshman season that the Hoyas go as Ian Christianson goes, and that will again be the case this season. Last year his efforts were enough to bring Georgetown just a penalty kick shootout away from defeating national powerhouse North Carolina on its home field in the NCAA tournament. Though it will be difficult to repeat that postseason performance with a much younger group in 2011, it’s still a possibility so long as a player like Christianson is in the fold.
Even at the lowest point of his Georgetown career, as he watched the hopes of a season soar over the crossbar, No. 6 knew, like his head coach did, that his time would come.
“I knew we had bright expectations ahead,” Christianson said.
Those expectations were there last year, and they’re back again. But now it’s his team, and the weight of a program is again on his shoulders.