In a thrilling championship match that lived up to the hype, the No. 18 Georgetown men’s soccer team defeated Xavier 2-1 at Shaw Field to win the Big East Championship this Sunday; it was the team’s second championship win since claiming the 2015 title.
With the victory, the Hoyas have earned a berth in the NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament.
Having suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of Xavier (11-6-3, 5-4 Big East) in September, Georgetown (14-3-2, 6-2-1 Big East) sought a different result this time around.
Despite playing at home, the Hoyas started the game on their back foot as the Musketeers instantly put the Hoyas under pressure. Just under three minutes into the game, Xavier had a great chance to get ahead early. An attack down the right wing led to a tantalizing ball being played across the goalmouth.
However, the first few Xavier runners were not able to get a foot on it. The ball eventually found Xavier redshirt freshman midfielder Payton Miller, who got off a shot that was then blocked. Georgetown was able to clear its lines and avoid an early disaster.
After this early scare for the Hoyas, play began to even out as both teams settled into the game. As the half wore on, Georgetown saw more of the ball and forced Xavier to sit back and defend. The best chance of the half for the Hoyas occurred when they found the back of the net just over 23 minutes into the game, but the goal was disallowed and called offside.
Following a tense 45 minutes of soccer, both teams entered the half still deadlocked at 0-0.
“When you get a team that is as well organized and talented as Xavier, you’re going to have to find ways to manufacture [goals], and you just have to be patient, and it can come in a lot of different ways. But there weren’t that many moments for us in transition which makes it hard. That’s an easy way to score goals,” Head Coach Brian Wiese said.
Just three minutes into the second half, controversy arose as freshman midfielder Foster McCune was deemed to have intentionally struck the ball into the crossbar with his hand to prevent a goal. While fortunate enough to avoid a red card, the Hoyas did concede a penalty.
Despite junior goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski’s diving the right way, he failed to stop Xavier senior forward Matt Vasquenza’s well-taken penalty shot, giving Xavier a 1-0 lead.
However, the Hoyas reacted well and quickly began to impose their will on the Musketeers’ defense.
“One thing that we harp on is, when we go down a goal, we always just tell ourselves we always have to score a goal to win anyways,” senior midfielder Christopher Lema said. “You’re still trying to just get that one goal to win. You don’t tie a championship game — you have to win it. So we just kept pushing; we got the goal.”
In the 62nd minute, following a poorly taken Xavier goal kick, Georgetown launched a quick counterattack that led to its equalizer. Senior forward Declan McCabe got the ball near midfield and played a quick one-two pass with freshman midfielder Jacob Montes. After receiving Montes’ pass, McCabe played the ball across the box, where freshman forward Derek Dodson was able to finish the counter-attack with his team-leading 10th goal of the season, tying the game at one.
McCabe spoke highly of the freshman’s goal-scoring ability.
“There’s not a lot of guys that have that trait. Branden Allen was a guy who was here for 4 years doing that a lot. You can’t undervalue how important it is for those guys to just score goals, and [Dodson]’s got the knack for it,” McCabe said.
Following Dodson’s goal, Georgetown continued to have the majority of the possessions. However, Xavier defended well, and Georgetown did not get another good look at the goal until late into the second half. In the 86th minute, sophomore forward Achara took the ball down the right wing and crossed it into the middle to McCabe, who got a touch and sent the ball into the back of the net. Yet, much to the dismay of McCabe and the rest of the Hoyas, the goal was disallowed as McCabe was ruled offside, and the game remained tied.
Despite having a goal disallowed for the second time in the game, the Hoyas maintained focus and continued to search for the winning goal in the waning moments of regulation.
“There’s a real calmness to the group that permeates out from the older guys and the captains,” Wiese said. “Our senior class does a great job. McDonough and Marcinkowski, as captains, are calm.”
However, the Hoyas were unable to find the back of the net again, and both teams went into overtime tied at one.
In the first overtime period, Xavier got the chance to score off a set piece. Looking for his second goal of the game, Vasquenza hit a free-kick from over twenty yards, but it rattled the crossbar and harmlessly bounced out of bounds for a goal kick.
In the second overtime period, the best chance again came from a set piece, but this time it fell to the Hoyas. Although Lema has taken most set pieces for the Hoyas this season, late into the second overtime, McCabe stepped up to take a free kick from just outside the box.
He struck the ball with his right foot and bent the ball over the wall and into the corner of the net, just out of the reach of Xavier junior goalkeeper Colin Hanley’s dive.
The goal gave the Hoyas their 2-1 win in overtime and crowned them Big East champions for the second time in three years.
“Xavier is a really good team. It takes two good teams to make a great game. I thought it was a great game,” Coach Wiese said.
The Hoyas’ dramatic win earns them a bid and a first-round bye in the NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament as the 14 seed.
Next up, Georgetown will play the winner of Thursday’s Southern Methodist University vs. Central Arkansas University game in the second round of the NCAA tournament Sunday, Nov. 19.
The game will be televised by GUHoyas.