The No. 3 Georgetown University men’s soccer team advanced to the championship game of the Big East Tournament by defeating Butler University in the fifth round of penalty kicks by a score of 4 to 3 in the Big East semifinals on Shaw Field on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
The top-seeded Georgetown Hoyas (14-1-3, 7-0-2 Big East) hosted the fifth-seeded Butler Bulldogs (11-6-2, 4-4-1 Big East) and emerged victorious, clinching a spot in the Big East Finals, to be held Sunday, Nov. 17 on Shaw Field.
In their previous matchup this season, the Hoyas defeated the Bulldogs 3-0 courtesy of two goals by junior midfielder Jacob Montes on Sep. 20 on the road in Indianapolis, Ind.
The Blue and Gray got off to a quick start as sophomore midfielder Sean Zawadzki scored in the third minute. Zawadzki hit a low one-time effort through traffic from about 20 yards out that flew into the bottom corner, giving Georgetown an early lead.
Butler quickly struck back, however, as it equalized in the seventh minute. Zawadzki lost possession in the midfield leading to a quick Butler counterattack. Midfielder Alex Lehtinen finished the attack by placing his shot past freshman goalkeeper Tomas Romero, tying the game at one.
After that goal, the half was full of back-and-forth action, but neither team was able to break the deadlock for the remainder of the half.
Well before the half, the Bulldogs had a prime opportunity to take the lead in the 16th minute, when forward Brandon Guhl found himself free in the box about 10 yards from goal. Guhl turned and got a shot off, beating Romero but hitting the crossbar to bounce off the goal line before freshman forward Will Sands cleared the ball away from danger. The game entered the halftime period with both teams still level.
Like the first half, Georgetown struck first early in the second half when senior defender Dylan Nealis played a through ball to senior forward Achara on the right side of the box. Achara attempted to cross the ball to junior forward Derek Dodson, but a Butler defender slid in and blocked the cross with his hand, resulting in a penalty kick. Achara buried the ensuing penalty kick, giving the Hoyas a 2-1 lead.
Butler equalized once again, though, courtesy of Guhl. On a quick counterattack in the 70th minute, midfielder Jack Haywood played a through ball to Guhl who had a great one-time finish into the bottom corner, tying the game at two.
After the goal, Guhl continued to be a persistent challenge to the Blue and Gray. In the 73rd minute, Guhl nearly assisted a goal but the resulting shot went wide of the net. Seconds later, he hit a half-volley from outside the box that was threatening but went just over the net.
In the final minute of regulation, Nealis had a chance to win it for Georgetown as he split his way between two defenders and cut into the box. But his shot from a tight angle was right at goalkeeper Gabriel Gjergji as the game went to overtime.
The best chances for either team in the overtime periods came from the Georgetown offense. With just seconds remaining in the first overtime period, junior defender Chris Le found Nealis in the box off a strong throw-in. Nealis flicked the ball to Dodson who headed the ball into the back of the net. The referee ruled that Nealis had illegally followed a Bulldog defender during the play, however, and the goal was ultimately disallowed.
In the 106th minute, Le once again created a fantastic scoring opportunity after he received the ball on the left side of the box following a Butler clearance. Le played a cross on the ground to Dodson whose shot from six yards out was powerful but directly at Gjergji who made a firm reaction save.
Both teams began the penalty shootout with their first three shooters scoring before the Bulldogs’ fourth penalty taker hit his shot over the crossbar. Junior forward Jack Beer took the fourth penalty for the Blue and Gray, but his shot was saved by a diving effort from Gjergji. Next, Butler’s fifth penalty taker missed wide of the net leaving freshman midfielder Dante Polvara with a chance to win it for Georgetown. Polvara coolly shot his penalty kick down the center of the net to advance Georgetown to the championship game of the Big East Tournament.
The Hoyas outshot the Bulldogs 21-10 and had 11 corners to the Bulldogs’ two as the Hoyas yet again controlled the game from an offensive perspective.
Georgetown will host Providence College at 12 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17, on Shaw Field in the Big East Tournament championship game, which will be nationally televised on FS2. Providence defeated St. John’s University 2-1 to clinch a spot in this game.