Despite a valiant effort to defend home turf against Penn State University, the Georgetown University women’s soccer team ultimately fell just short, losing 2-3 in a tightly contested thriller.
The Georgetown Hoyas (15-2-5, 8-0-2 Big East) made a rare springtime return to Shaw Field to face the Nittany Lions (15-5-3, 5-3-2 Big Ten) for the third friendly contest of their spring schedule. The match-up was expected to be close, as the Hoyas and the Nittany Lions had previously battled to a 2-2 tie in their 2022 season openers.
The Hoyas found themselves down early after an ill-advised attempt to dribble away from pressure by senior goalkeeper Allie Augur in the sixth minute, resulting in a giveaway and an empty net for Penn State to capitalize on.
Despite the early blow, Georgetown persisted unfazed, continuing to apply pressure high up the pitch and creating a number of half-chances. The pick of the bunch involved a spectacular spell down the right side, which started with first-year forward Henley Tippins, who held the ball up well and played it out wide to fellow first-year forward Natalie Means, who cannoned down the sideline. Means delivered a perfectly weighted cutback to Tippins, whose shot bounced mere inches outside of the far post.
The Nittany Lions caused problems for the Hoyas, though, particularly on the counter. In the 23rd minute, first-year defender Lily Froehlich delivered a perfectly timed tackle on a Penn State forward bearing down on goal, but soon after, Penn State was rewarded for its unrelenting pressure. The Hoyas gave away a penalty near the edge of the box, which was slotted away to the keeper’s left by Lions defender Maddie Myers.
Toward the end of the first 30-minute period, the Hoyas had a few great chances to equalize. Means and sophomore midfielder Eliza Turner both struck from the top of the box after the Hoyas won the initial headers off back-to-back corner kicks, but two outstanding saves thanks to a combined effort by the Penn State keeper and defender kept the two sides in deadlock. Junior midfielder Tatum Lenain also whipped in a beautiful cross from a corner that sailed into the back of the net, but the goal was disallowed.
Early on in the second 30-minute period, Penn State continued to pile on the pressure, but strong defending from the Hoyas kept them at bay. However, the visitors found yet another breakthrough, as Lions midfielder Luciana Latino won the ball deep in the Hoyas’ half and delivered a beautiful cross straight to the head of Lions midfielder Julia Raich, who cut across her defender and buried a header into the back of the net, giving Penn State a 3-0 lead.
The Hoyas almost immediately bounced back. In the 45th minute, first-year forward Esme Brayshaw delivered a perfectly disguised reverse pass to sophomore midfielder Claire Manning, who made a late run into the box. Manning fired it into the net past the helpless Penn State keeper. The two substitutes combined nicely to pull one back for the Hoyas.
Just 10 minutes later, the Hoyas again found the back of the net, as a powerful shot near the edge of the box forced a save from Penn State’s keeper, who could only parry it away into a dangerous area. Sophomore forward Erika Harwood pounced on the opportunity, burying the chance into the roof of the net to bring the Hoyas back within one, 2-3.
During the final 30-minute period, the Hoya defense was tested yet again when Penn State forward Amelia White, who had caused problems all afternoon, eluded her defenders and fired a shot that cannoned off the crossbar. The rebound fell precariously into the center of the box, but first-year goalkeeper Cara Martin was able to gratefully collect it.
In the 77th minute, a strong run with the ball from Harwood opened up space for sophomore forward Maja Lardner on the left wing, who flashed a cross into a dangerous area. A deft touch from Tippins capped off an outstanding team goal, but an offside was called and a goal for the Hoyas was once again disallowed.
The final minutes of the game saw the Hoyas with one more chance to equalize. Breaking down the right wing, Lardner whipped out another teasing cross that found Harwood at the back post, but she was unable to apply the final pivotal touch.
Means was a standout performer, particularly in the wing back role, as she anticipated passes well, created chances down the right hand side from crossing opportunities, was strong defensively and effectively dribbled out of pressure. Turner also dominated the midfield, winning the ball back successfully and controlling the tempo of the team.
The Hoyas will next travel to Lewisburg, Pa., to face off against Bucknell University (8-6-6, 5-1-3 Patriot League) on April 2 at 2 p.m. in their penultimate spring scrimmage.
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