Georgetown (6-2-0) emerges from non-conference play into the always treacherous Big East far from unscathed, with a number of starters still sidelined by injuries sustained during the opening weeks of the season.
Luckily for the Hoyas, the new look lineup fared just fine last week.
“We’ve had three shutouts in the last three games against three decent teams,” Head Coach Dave Nolan. “There’s not a whole lot broken, so I’m not going to try and fix it.”
Georgetown has rebounded well from the team’s two-game skid in early September, defeating Virginia Commonwealth 1-0 before returning to the Hilltop last weekend for a 2-0 win over James Madison and a 1-0 victory over St. Francis. However, as the Blue and Gray travel to Seton Hall (4-1-2) tonight to kick off the Big East campaign, they are well aware of the challenges which accompany league play.
“The conference games have a little bit more bite to them,” Nolan said. “The stakes are higher, and certainly in the first couple of games when everyone’s still playing flat out for everything, you tend to get a lot of emotion and a lot of enthusiasm, and this weekend’s going be a challenge.”
While the Pirates are projected to finish in the cellar of the Big East National Division this season, theHoyas know that the trip to South Orange is never as easy as it seems. Georgetown holds a 3-0-1 advantage in the teams’ past four meetings, but the Blue and Gray are a mere 1-4-2 all-time when playing at Seton Hall. Last season, it was now-senior midfielder Kelly D’Ambrisi’s late strike which propelled Georgetown to a 2-0 victory at North Kehoe.
The North Jersey hosts play a 3-5-2 formation — an unusual tactic, especially in women’s soccer. While the Pirates will attempt to apply heavy pressure and thus contain the Hoyas in specific areas of the field, the visitors are prepared to focus on quick ball-movement in hopes of catching the undermanned back line out of position.
“It’s a tough system to play against, but if you can move the ball quickly and change the point of attack you can really punish the team,” Nolan said. “If you can break that pressure you tend to have good moments, and that’s what we were working on yesterday in practice … basically we’re trying to move the ball faster than their back three can react.”
Georgetown returns to the friendly confines of North Kehoe on Sunday to face Rutgers (5-2-0), against whom the Hoyas have inexplicably struggled to find results in years past. Due to a combination of uncharacteristic team performances and poor luck, the Blue and Gray have beaten the Scarlet Knights just once since 2005, including last season’s 1-0 loss in which Georgetown could not overcome an early corner-kick tally from the Scarlet Knights despite performing well on the road.
The Hoyas also have motivation to avenge that loss because this early-season meeting could have a lasting impact on the division standings. Georgetown and Rutgers were predicted to finish second and third in the standings behind last season’s national champion Notre Dame, and the two teams are expected to be in fierce competition for a spot in the division’s upper echelon throughout the year.
“We’ve got our bogey team here on Sunday. For some reason we haven’t had the success against [Rutgers] that we’ve had against many other Big East teams, here or up there” Nolan said. “They’re well coached, well organized and they’re a good team … We’re hoping this’ll be a weekend we can come away with two wins and start the Big East conference schedule play from a good note.”
The Hoyas will kick off at 7 p.m. tonight against the Pirates in South Orange, N.J. Sunday’s start against the Scarlet Knights is set for noon at North Kehoe Field.