Unfortunately for Georgetown it was the No. 17 Ohio State Buckeyes (17-4-2) who wound up making history Friday night in Columbus by punching their program’s first-ever ticket to the NCAA Final Four with a 2-0 victory over the Blue and Gray (15-7-2).
The game, played at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, pitted two teams that had never reached the College Cup against each other. In an evenly matched game, the Buckeyes were able to come out on top thanks to a 20th-minute penalty kick from senior defender Lauren Beachy and a 53rd-minute goal from sophomore forward Tiffany Cameron.
The contest began auspiciously for the Blue and Gray, who earned the game’s first corner kick within the first two minutes.
But it was all downhill from there as the hosts began to assert themselves. The Big 10 regular season champion Buckeyes won throw-in after throw-in deep down the right wing, and they pressured the Hoyas into conceding two early corners of their own. Only desperate blocking from Blue and Gray defenders prevented senior goalie Jackie DesJardin from having to make any saves in the early going.
But the Buckeyes drew blood on a counterattack moments after Georgetown redshirt junior midfielder Ingrid Wells’ dangerous cross into the box nearly found its way into the net for a 1-0 Georgetown lead. That was not to be, and the ball was quickly played up to the Buckeye forwards. Sophomore forward Lauren Granberg was eventually brought down at the edge of the box, earning a penalty kick that Beachy calmly slotted past a diving DesJardin to give the hosts a 1-0 advantage.
“[Ingrid] had a great ball across the face of the goal where we had two players just miss it by inches,” Georgetown Head Coach Dave Nolan said. “From that they counterattacked, got us in trouble, got behind us, and [senior defender] Michaela [Buonomo] made a challenge on the kid in the box that resulted in a penalty.”
The goal seemed to galvanize the Blue and Gray, who finally began to enjoy meaningful spells of possession. But they still failed to seriously threaten Ohio State junior goalie Katie Baumgardner and had to stay constantly aware of Buckeye counterattacks.
In the last minutes of the half, the Hoyas seemed to gather momentum. Junior forward Sam Baker’s attempted flick at the edge of the six-yard box forced a good diving save out of Baumgardner, and a corner kick by Wells with 15 seconds left in the half resulted in a chance at goal, but nothing came of the pressure.
Play remained even out of halftime, but the Buckeyes doubled their lead less than 10 minutes into the second stanza on another counterattack when Cameron surged up the left wing and chipped a beautiful shot over the head of an onrushing DesJardin.
“Tiffany Cameron [is] an amazing girl,” Nolan said. “We didn’t have an answer for her. She scored their second goal and had a big hand in their first. . Every time she got it, she gave us trouble, and we couldn’t quite get to grips with her.”
Down 2-0, the Hoyas continued to press forward and create opportunities, but the Ohio State back four did just enough to keep the Blue and Gray off the scoreboard. Baker had a decent chance to halve the Buckeyes’ lead when a through ball put her in on goal, but she rifled her shot high and wide of the net with an Ohio State defender bearing down on her.
“2-0 [was] a tough hole to dig ourselves out of,” Nolan said. “We didn’t play badly, but we didn’t play great. . I spoke with [Ohio State’s] coach after the game, and we all agreed that it was about as good as Ohio State had played all year, and unfortunately for us we just happened to be on the [other] end of it.”
As the clock ticked toward five minutes left, Wells nearly opened the scoring for the Blue and Gray, but her long-range rocket skimmed just past the post.
“I thought Ingrid was tremendous tonight,” Nolan said. “She was the best player on the field, [but to win] you probably need to have eight or nine of your players show up and have great games, and I don’t think we got that.”
Increasingly desperate, the Hoyas continued to stream forward in numbers every time they had possession, but it was all for naught. The Buckeyes stayed firm at the back and held on for the 2-0 victory and a berth in their first-ever College Cup where they will face Notre Dame in the tournament semifinals.
Despite the loss, the Hoyas have undoubtedly enjoyed the finest season in program history. This year’s senior class departs the Hilltop having been a part of Georgetown’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 and its first-ever wins in the tournament this season.
“Here they are, four years later, bringing us to the doorstep of the Final Four,” Nolan said of his seniors. “This stuff doesn’t happen easy. . You’ve got to work so hard because there’s so many teams [that] want to be here.”
Nolan is impressed with the magnitude of what his team has accomplished this year but recognizes the new challenges and increased scrutiny that come with that success.
“There’s 322 college programs, and we were one of eight still playing,” he said. “We’ve been a good team for the last couple of years, but [after] raising it to this level all of sudden, [we will] get every team’s best effort. I think the girls need to understand that, and I [hope] that they want to be that team. Because if they don’t, it’s going to be difficult.”