The No. 18 Georgetown women’s soccer team beat Butler 4-2 on Thursday afternoon in its Big East home opener behind a hat trick from sophomore forward Grace Damaska.
Despite going down 1-0 on an early penalty and being tied 2-2 less than 10 minutes into the second half, the Hoyas (7-2-3, Big East 2-0-1) found another gear and ran away with the game, with senior midfielder Daphne Corboz contributing three assists and a penalty.
Head Coach Dave Nolan was so disappointed with the first-half performance that he moved freshman attacking midfielder Rachel Corboz back into a more defensive position alongside aerially dominant freshman defender Taylor Pak to close out the half.
“We found ourselves up 2-1 and I thought we were second-best,” Nolan said. “We never really had a grip on the game. In the second half it was disappointing when they scored a second goal because we defended poorly. We gave up a soft second goal. And then we started to play.”
The first Blue and Gray goal came off a Daphne Corboz penalty, and the second started with freshman midfielder Chloe Knott playing a ball to Daphne Corboz, who threaded an inch-perfect pass behind the Butler defensive line for Damaska to deftly chip into the far corner of the goal.
Just four minutes after Butler (7-6-0, Big East 1-2-0) leveled the match 2-2, Daphne Corboz made a jinking run along the right side of the box and crossed to a wide-open Damaska, who finished with composure.
When asked about her hat trick, Damaska knew exactly the reason for her success.
“It feels awesome. I wore a braid today, so I’m going to attribute it to that, because I’m pretty superstitious,” Damaska said. “I don’t really ever head the ball. But I headed it, and it popped over and in. It was pretty surprising.”
The header was the fourth goal for the Hoyas and Damaska’s third, coming on an innocuous-looking 40-yard free kick from Daphne Corboz that was turned home by Damaska over the charging goalkeeper’s outstretched gloves.
The set-piece goal finally put the match out of reach for the Bulldogs and capped a perfect match for Damaska, who also flicked in a difficult cross which led to senior forward Vanessa Skrumbis drawing a penalty, which Daphne Corboz converted, to level the match 1-1.
“I think she’s already doubled her tally of goals for her career, and it was good to see,” Nolan said. “Her first goal in particular was a very good goal. Great run-in, great ball from Daphne [Corboz], great finish. Second goal, sheusually she only uses her head for wearing hats, so I was as shocked as anybody when it looped over the keeper’s head.”
No Big East games are easy, but Nolan felt that the Hoyas played too much into Bulldog hands early in the match.
“This was a good team,” Nolan said. “If you give them the ball, they make you work hard to get it back. And in the first half we gave them the ball way too much. And then we expended a lot of needless energy trying to win it back.”
Daphne Corboz, as always, was integral to the Hoyas’ success, controlling the game from the midfield and urging the team to continue the attack.
“As an attacking midfielder, it’s my job [to attack and create chances], and it’s something that I really enjoy doing,” Daphne Corboz said. “It’s something that I have a goal to do every single game. So today, obviously, to be involved in all the goals is really good, and it’s something I try to do.”
The team’s next game is at Shaw Field on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Providence (5-4-2, 1-1-0 Big East), a squad which finds itself ranked 71 in NCAA Women’s Soccer RPI, only 26 spots behind Georgetown and 99 ahead of Butler.
Coach Nolan expects another difficult Big East match.
“[It will be] another game just like this. Different type of team, they’ve got a kid up front who’s a real handful. I don’t think they’ll have the soccer that this team [Butler] has, but they’ll be more athletic and a little bit more blue-collar,” Nolan said.
It will certainly not be an easy game for Georgetown; the Friars beat Seton Hall (3-7-2, 0-3 Big East) 2-0 to open Big East play then lost just 2-1 to a very good DePaul team (10-0-2, 2-0-1 Big East).
Correction: An earlier version of this article misattributed Butler’s record to Georgetown. Georgetown’s record is 7-2-3, Big East 2-0-1.