Just four minutes into the game at WakeMed Soccer Park on Dec. 13, sophomore midfielder Sean Zawadzki rocketed a volley from outside the box to secure the lead for the No. 3 Georgetown men’s soccer team over No. 7 Stanford University. The Hoyas’ lead remained unchallenged for the remainder of the game as they went on to a 2-0 victory to advance to the College Cup Final.
In their second trip to the College Cup in program history, the Hoyas (19-1-3, 7-0-2 Big East) took to the pitch in Cary, N.C., to face the Cardinals (14-3-5, 6-2-2 Pac-12) in the semifinals amid heavy rain and difficult field conditions Friday night. Stanford entered the match as a dominant force in college soccer, having won the national title in three of the past four seasons.
For the third time in their four matches of the NCAA Tournament, Georgetown grabbed the opening goal of the match within the first five minutes. In the fourth minute, sophomore forward Zach Riviere played a ball in from the right wing that was headed clear by a Stanford defender. The clearance, however, went straight to Zawadzki, who hit a spectacular volley from 22 yards out, beating Cardinal goalkeeper Andrew Thomas and flying into the back of the net. The goal marks Zawadzki’s third of the season and the first of the tournament.
Following the goal, both teams struggled to generate a fluid attack going forward, as the steady rain made it difficult to string together passes.
In the 17th minute, Stanford had its first opportunity to score when midfielder Logan Panchot played a dangerous ball in from the right wing across the face of goal. No Stanford attacker, however, could get on the end of the ball, and it skipped out of play for a goal kick.
A few minutes later, Panchot played another cross in from the right wing, this time finding forward Ousseni Bouda. Bouda’s ensuing shot went just wide of the post as Georgetown’s 1-0 lead remained intact.
In the 39th minute, the Hoyas celebrated what appeared to be their second goal of the match as senior forward Riley Strassner found the back of the net following a ball served in from the right wing by senior forward Achara. However, Strassner was deemed offside and the goal was disallowed, leaving the Blue and Gray lead at one entering halftime.
Georgetown, having just missed the opportunity to extend its lead to two in the first half, opened the second half in search of another goal.
In the 48th minute, the Blue and Gray offense generated another chance on goal as Achara found the ball in space down the left wing and moved in on net. He then cut inside looking to get a shot off, but Stanford’s defenders recovered well and blocked his attempt.
Despite the wet conditions, the Hoyas were strong defensively throughout the match and did well to neutralize Stanford’s attack. The Cardinals’ first shot on target came in the 55th minute when midfielder Jared Gilbey fired a shot from outside the box. The ball was then saved by sophomore goalkeeper Giannis Nikopolidis.
In the 65th minute, junior forward Derek Dodson drove toward the goal but was brought down from behind by Cardinal defender Keegan Hughes. Despite calls from the Hoyas for a red card for the denied opportunity on goal, Hughes was issued a yellow card and Georgetown received the ball just outside the box for a set piece.
Having scored from a similar position in the Hoyas’ previous match against the University of Washington, junior midfielder Jacob Montes took the ensuing free kick with hopes of capitalizing once again for the Blue and Gray. Montes, however, was unable to direct his shot on target as it soared over the net.
In the 67th minute, Georgetown doubled its lead when junior midfielder Foster McCune beat Thomas from close range. The play generated from Zawadzki, who dribbled past multiple Cardinal defenders down the right wing and sent a cross into the box. The cross deflected off a Stanford defender before bouncing to McCune, who finished off the play with a header into the back of the net. The goal, McCune’s third of the season, brought victory within sight for the Hoyas as 13 minutes remained on the clock.
Following the goal, Stanford pushed its players forward in an attempt to close the deficit and salvage its chances at the College Cup. Despite the Cardinals’ efforts, the Blue and Gray defense held Stanford to just one corner kick and zero shots in the closing minutes.
With the final whistle, the Hoyas secured the 2-0 win over Stanford and advanced to the College Cup Final for the second time in program history and the first time since 2012. On the day, the Hoyas outshot the Cardinals 9-2, and Nikopolidis got the win in net, making one save in the match.
Playing for the first national championship in school history, Georgetown will face No. 1 University of Virginia in the College Cup Final in Cary, N.C., on Sunday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU and can be watched online on WatchESPN.