Coming off a stunning 9-7 upset over the No. 16 Denver Pioneers, the Georgetown women’s lacrosse team faces the No. 2 Florida Gators on Saturday in a battle for the Big East regular season title and the top seed in the Big East tournament.
Georgetown Head Coach Ricky Fried said Georgetown’s (9-7, 7-1 Big East) victory over Denver (12-3, 6-2 Big East) gives them confidence going forward.
“Obviously, it’s the biggest win of the year. Each win becomes a little bit bigger and bigger, but beating a top-20 team gives us a lot of confidence. I think the way we beat them, especially in the first half, gives us a lot of confidence in our ability to execute our game plan and play at a really high level regardless of who the opponent is,” Fried said.
Against Denver, Georgetown came out shooting in the first half with 18 of their 24 total shots in the game. The Hoyas opened on a 3-0 run and ended the half on a 4-0 run to take a 7-2 lead. The Pioneers roared back in the second half with five goals, but the Hoyas were able to hold on for the win.
Newly-minted Big East Attacker of the Week sophomore Morgan Ryan led the Hoyas with four goals against Denver. She attributed her success to the offense’s confidence.
“I think it was the confidence on the attacking end. We were running our sets, and we were beating their defense like we practiced. I think just having everyone on the same page just really helped us all click,” Ryan said.
Sophomore attack Taylor Gebhardt scored two goals for the Hoyas. Sophomore midfielder Francesca Whitehurst, who received Big East Midfielder of the Week honors for the third week in a row, scored one goal. Junior midfielder Georgia Tunney and junior midfielder Hannah Seibel also scored one goal each for Georgetown. Sophomore attack Julia Feiss led Denver with five goals.
The win against Denver is the crowning achievement in a remarkable turnaround for the Hoyas this season. Before entering conference play, the Hoyas stood at just 2-6. Now the team is 9-7 and just outside the top 25 in the national rankings, at No. 35
Ryan said the team’s improvement gives them momentum.
“It’s been really nice to see. I think since January we’ve been chipping away at where we’re supposed to be, and we still haven’t reached our potential yet. But each game we’re making moves forward, and I’m really happy where we’re going into the Big East. I think we have huge momentum after the Denver win with confidence in the way we’ve been playing. Going into this Big East tournament hopefully [we can] make a big run there,” Ryan said.
Coach Fried said the team’s progress is partly due to the players’ response to the coache’s style, which will help the team continue to succeed in future years.
“[For me], there’s a tremendous amount of pride in their ability to stay together as a team, but also continue to work and actually improve. Our record didn’t just get better; we’re actually better as a team right now. You can see a significant difference from not only last fall, but even from February, from where we are. So I guess pride in their work ethic, their response to us,” Fried said.
The Hoyas’ next task is even greater than their last. The Gators (14-2, 8-0 Big East) are ranked No. 2 nationally. A win for Georgetown would give them the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament, as they would hold the tiebreaker over Florida. Coach Fried said the Hoyas need to bring their best game to Gainesville.
The Gators’ offense averages 16.88 goals per game compared to their opponents’ 8.81. Senior attack Mollie Stevens, sophomore attack Lindsey Ronbeck and junior attack Shayna Pirreca lead the Florida offense with over 40 goals each.
“They’re very talented. They’re tremendous athletes. [They] play super competitive. I think the biggest thing that we have to do is force the game to be played 7-on-7 at either end. I think that if we get into a track meet with them, that’s going to not go very well — so forcing them to play settled as much as possible. Draw controls will be big. At the end of the day, their physicality on their defensive end — those are going to be the keys for us,” Fried said.
Opening draw is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. in Gainesville, Fla.