A penalty kick stopped cold. A free kick crossing the line without a whistle. Another penalty kick miss.
For 83 minutes, the No. 6 Georgetown men’s soccer team (15-2-1, 6-2-0 Big East) couldn’t catch a break with a divisional title on the line against Seton Hall (6-11-0, 2-6-0) on Senior Day.
Go figure that it’d be a freshman that would end up delivering the win.
Striker Brandon Allen — who leads the Hoyas in both points and goals in his rookie campaign — provided the breakthrough in the 84th minute of regulation, collecting an unselfish ball in the box from senior midfielder Andy Riemer and burying it into the bottom-right corner to seal his team’s second Big East Blue Division title in three years.
“It’s awesome,” senior defender and co-captain Jimmy Nealis said afterward. “This is the second time around that I’ve been through this feeling, and Senior Day is awesome, but winning the trophy is better. I’d rather do that every time.”
“It’s no small feat,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said. “It’s just validation for the quality [team] that they are and the character they have, and I’m really happy for them.”
Wiese and Nealis were hardly the only ones that were riding high in the wake of the victory, as thepostgame trophy presentation aptly demonstrated.
It was a trophy that was hard earned, and, was it not for a late-season turnaround, one that never would have actually made it to the Hilltop.
Following back-to-back losses in early October to then-No. 2 UConn and then-No. 10 Notre Dame — their first two defeats of the season — the Blue and Gray needed a serious reversal of fortune. A hardening of mentality did the trick.
“We had five games [left], and we said, ‘Look, we have to be perfect,’” Wiese explained. “We knew we could win every single one, and it was then just a matter of lining each one up individually and take care of it.”
The last of those regular-season dominoes fell on Saturday at home, but the Pirates didn’t go down easily.
Dominating possession as usual in the early going, Georgetown looked to have gotten itself on the board in the 15th minute, when Allen drew a foul in the Seton Hall box. Senior midfielder IanChristianson stepped to the spot to take the ensuing penalty, but his shot to the goalie’s right was easily turned aside.
Less than two minutes later, junior forward Steve Neumann appeared to have scored on a free kick, but the referee made no call. Wiese proceeded to furiously appeal the call on the sidelines to no avail, and the game somehow remained scoreless in spite of that incredibly hectic stretch.
“I heard from a lot of people that it did cross the line, people that were close to it, but the ref said he didn’t see it, so there’s nothing we could really do about that,” Neumann said.
A Riemer header straight at the Pirate goalkeeper from point-blank range in the 24th minute constituted the Hoyas’ last decent chance of the half, as the two sides went into halftime scoreless.
Allen had a near-post rip soon after the intermission that was parried wide by the keeper, and what followed soon afterward was a serious dose of deja vu.
Ten minutes into the half, freshman midfielder Melvin Snoh became the second Georgetown player to be taken down in the area, and Wiese opted to give the kick to Neumann this time after Christianson’smiss. Despite the change in personnel from the first, though, what resulted was nearly identical, as Neumann again shot to the goalie’s right and was likewise denied.
It was the visitors who then began to threaten, forcing sophomore Tomas Gomez into three big-time saves around a half-hour from time in order to preserve his clean sheet.
Finally, with less than six minutes in the match, Riemer found Allen to secure the Blue and Gray’s second win over Seton Hall in as many games.
“We created plenty of chances, and it was just a matter of finishing them,” Wiese said. “[There were so many times] that it was skirting across the line, and we’re getting a foot on it, but it somehow doesn’t go [exactly] in the right direction.
“We knew the first goal was going to be hard today, and it just took a little longer than we would’ve liked.”
Flashy or not, Georgetown’s performance nonetheless brought the three points that it needed to gain a share of the Big East title.
As a two seed in the Big East tournament, the Hoyas will now have a bye to the quarterfinals, where they will face a tough opponent at home in No. 18 St. John’s (10-3-4, 4-3-1 Big East).
The Red Storm is 7-0-1 in the last eight games of the series, having knocked the Blue and Gray out of last season’s tournament in their most recent meeting.
“The boys worked hard, but we know we still have work to do,” Neumann said. “One of our goals [the entire season has been] getting to Red Bull Arena for the semifinals, and that’s definitely something that we want to achieve.”
“We’re feeling good,” Nealis echoed. “We can’t let down, can’t take anything else as given to us. We’ve got to keep working.”