On a day marked by upsets around the league, the No. 6 Georgetown men’s soccer team (14-2-1, 5-2-0 Big East) got the job done in somewhat less attention-grabbing fashion against Seton Hall (6-10-0, 2-5-0 Big East), winning, 2-0, on Wednesday in South Orange, N.J.
Because No. 8 Notre Dame defeated No. 5 Marquette and No. 3 Connecticut lost on the road to Big East bottom-feeder Providence, there is now a tricky four-way impasse atop the Big East Blue Division. Georgetown, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Marquette are tied heading into the final day of the regular season.
In order to grab one of the three Big East Tournament byes under this year’s new format, Georgetown will need to muster a repeat performance in their rematch with Seton Hall at North Kehoe Field on Saturday.
Wednesday’s win was an essential one to stay in the division race, and thanks to second-half goals from senior midfielder Ian Christianson and freshman striker Brandon Allen, the Blue and Gray were able to take care of business.
As Head Coach Brian Wiese noted, though, the result did not come easily.
“It was a very competitive game,” Wiese said. “Seton Hall is a very talented team — it kept [the ball] and moved it against us, I think, as well as anyone we’ve played. We had a hard time kind of finding our rhythm.”
One reason Wiese felt his team had such a tough time finding that rhythm was the long layover between games; in a deviation from the usual two-game-a-week schedule, Georgetown had not had a fixture in seven days heading into its matchup with Seton Hall.
Add to that overly long rest that it was a weekday game on the road, and it might come as no surprise that the Hoyas struggled to gain a foothold in the opening 45 minutes of play. Outshot 6-3, and with a 3-2 disadvantage in corner kicks, the Blue and Gray went into the locker room looking for some kind of an offensive catalyst.
As things turned out, it would come from the exact opposite end of the pitch.
“Right after halftime, they had a good, left-footed, curling shot that was going into the upper corner, and [sophomore goalkeeper] Tomas [Gomez] made just a great save on it,” Wiese said. “That’s one of those things that, for our guys, was a little bit of a wake-up call and a little bit of a spark.”
Seeing Gomez come up with that save reinvigorated the Blue and Gray, who began to dictate the tempo in the game from that point on.
Twenty minutes into the second half, that uptick paid off. A cross from freshman forward Melvin Snoh on the left flank found Christianson, who hammered it home to break the deadlock and put his side finally on the board.
Wiese believes that Christianson’s tally, in terms of turning the tide in the contest, continued where Gomez’s stellar stop left off.
“When Ian scored his goal, it changed the game, too,” he said. “I think it really took the air out of Seton Hall. The game felt pretty comfortable [for us] from that moment on.”
Despite the two teams’ respective confidence levels at that point, however, the win remained still very much in the balance. Insurance for the Hoyas only came late in the game, when a Jimmy Nealis-Steve Neumann-Allen combination in the 89th minute ended up in the back of the net to ice the victory.
Following the final whistle, both sides had to immediately turn their attention to Saturday’s return game on the Hilltop, as Seton Hall will be fighting to secure a tournament berth while Georgetown looks to pick up its bye.
Because of the four-way tie in the Blue Division, a number of scenarios in terms of finishing order are still on the table. Another win against the Pirates will be enough to guarantee at least a top-three seed for the Blue and Gray; the other scenarios — dependent on the other games’ results — are out of their hands.
If Saturday’s action doesn’t clear things up in the title race, a tiebreaker involving Marquette — the only one of the three teams whom Georgetown defeated — would be ideal.
To get to that point, however, the Hoyas will need to surmount the tough challenge of beating a good team in back-to-back games.
“There’s not much in it — there really isn’t,” Wiese said. “We just have to be sharper [and] we have to do a little better in terms of what we were trying to do going into that game.
“We’ll make a couple of adjustments, but for the most part, you know your lineup, and you’ve got to compete. You’ve got to want it more. And then when the game opens up in the second half, can you take advantage of it?”
Since Saturday is Senior Day, the contest — slated to start at 1 p.m. at North Kehoe Field — will hold extra meaning for Wiese’s team, and the coach expressed a desire to see his team’s highly touted leaders go out on top.
“Hopefully, we can send them on their way with a Big East trophy in their hands. That would be great.”