For the second season in a row, the Georgetown women’s lacrosse team (6-11, 4-3 Big East) has failed to meet expectations. Though the team managed to bounce back from the opening stretch of its schedule, which saw the Hoyas lose four straight games and seven of its first nine, its sub-.500 overall record and fourth place finish in the Big East tournament mark another year of falling short of its goals.
In 2015, Georgetown entered the preseason polls at No. 17 in the nation and was projected to finish second in the Big East. But when Georgetown was stunned by Delaware (11-6, 3-3 CAA) in a 17-5 loss in its season debut and subsequently plummeted from the rankings, its lofty preseason goals started to move out of reach. It did not take the team as long to put together a win last year as it did this year — Georgetown won a close 11-9 decision over George Mason (11-6, 7-2 CAA) in the third game of the 2015 season — but the victory stood alone as the team’s one win in nonconference play.
An eventual loss to the University of Connecticut Huskies (12-5, 6-1 Big East) in the Big East semifinals ended the Hoyas’ season and snapped the five-game win streak that they built during conference play. Though Georgetown fell short of its projected second-place finish in the conference, it ended its season in a better place than it started. The team finished 7-10 on the season.
Fast forward to 2016, and a similar pattern of struggles plagued the Hoyas through the first stretch of the season. Losses to Delaware (11-6, 3-3 Colonial Athletic Association), Maryland (20-0, 5-0 Big Ten), Princeton (11-6, 6-1 Ivy League) and Towson (16-4, 5-1 Colonial Athletic Association) held Georgetown winless for nearly a month, with its first victory finally coming in a close 10-9 win over No. 17 Duke (11-9, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) March 9. The Hoyas entered conference play at 2-7, with only a small margin of error if they hoped to end the season at or slightly above .500.
But things started turning around; a win over Vanderbilt (5-11, 1-5 Big East) April 2 in Georgetown’s conference opener was a promising start, and two more wins later in the month over Villanova (4-13, 2-5 Big East) and Cincinnati (4-13, 0-7 Big East) put Georgetown in a good position to fulfill its preseason projected finish at second in the Big East.
Though it battled its way through the rest of conference play and managed to clinch the remaining No. 4 seed in the conference tournament, Georgetown once again lost in the semifinals of the tournament, this time to No. 2 Florida (18-2, 7-0 Big East). The Hoyas managed to improve on their earlier 14-7 loss to the Gators in conference play, dropping the semifinal game by only three goals, 11-8. But again, Georgetown stopped short of its predicted finish.
Georgetown plays a significantly more difficult nonconference schedule than most of the other teams in the Big East; seven of the nine teams Georgetown played in its nonconference schedule earned bids to the NCAA tournament, and two of those teams, Maryland and Penn (15-4, 6-1 Ivy League), are still in the running for the national championship title. Florida’s Big East debut in 2015 has also raised the level of competition during conference play, and with Denver entering the conference next season, Georgetown will continue to adjust to the changing dynamics of the Big East.
But Georgetown has entered the past few seasons sitting in the rankings right alongside its nonconference opponents and shows no signs of easing up its preconference schedule, leaving the question of whether the team will turn things around and step up to the early-season challenge in the future.
The Hoyas will lose several key players to graduation after this season, including attack Corinne Etchison and midfielder Kristen Bandos, who were both at the top of the leaderboard in points at the end of the season — Bandos finished with 34 points and Etchison finished with 33. Etchison also led Georgetown in assists with 12.
On the defensive end, the Hoyas will lose senior goalkeeper Megan McDonald, who started splitting time with junior goalkeeper Maddy Fisher this season, usually stepping into the cage for the second half. McDonald finished with 63 saves this season for a .453 save percentage in 16 games played.
But Georgetown also has key returners stepping into the roles its seniors leave behind. Junior attack Colleen Lovett bounced back from a midseason injury to reclaim her role on offense, netting consecutive hat tricks against Villanova and Cincinnati. Lovett has made significant contributions in each of her three seasons on the Hilltop; as a sophomore, she was second on the team in goals with 21 and led Georgetown in assists with 12.
Freshman attack Taylor Gebhardt and freshman midfielder Francesca Whitehurst will also return after stellar rookie seasons; the two were tied for first with Bandos in points with 34 each, and Whitehurst started all 17 of the Hoyas’ games this season.
If Georgetown can redeem the past two years in its 2017 nonconference schedule and use its depth to make up for the vacancies on its roster left by this year’s seniors, then all the pieces for a stellar season may finally fall into place.