For the first time in program history, the No. 2/5 Georgetown women’s soccer team reached the final four of the NCAA soccer tournament, the College Cup, with a 1-0 victory over the Santa Clara Broncos on Sunday.
The Hoyas (20-2-3, 6-1-2 Big East), who have conceded one goal in the last month and have outscored opponents 7-0 to this point in the tournament, scored their goal on a late, long-range low-angle effort from graduate student forward Crystal Thomas, her 11th of the season.
The first half saw both offenses stagnate, resulting in three total shots, but the game later gave way to a second period that saw the Broncos (12-7-4, 6-2-1 Big East) earn chances to score. Sophomore goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman posted four saves en route to her fifth straight shutout and fifteenth overall, good for second in the country.
Head Coach Dave Nolan said Georgetown’s offense, which has posted the second-most goals in the country with 61, has engendered a common reaction.
“Teams coming in to play us have realized that they have to shrink the game in time, try and stay in the game, and hope they can nick it,” Nolan said. “They almost did, if they had scored that chance, it would have been a perfect game plan for them.”
In the 57th minute, a Santa Clara player found herself in a one-on-one situation against Schechtman, who came up with the game’s most important stop.
“I saw her breaking free,” Schechtman said. “When she cut inside, I knew I had to step, and she took a shot and I was able to get a touch on it. She got the rebound but thankfully she hit it wide. In one-on-ones as a goalie, you just have to make yourself as big as you possibly can and try to get a reaction save on it.”
Thomas’ goal came from a very tight angle 25 yards out, and the ball bent and flew in high at the near post.
Thomas credited the midfielders for their efforts winning balls in the air and setting up opportunities for offensive players.
“It had some bend on it, and that helped,” Thomas said. “But it comes down to how we fought the whole game, and we were able to get ourselves in those kinds of positions.”
After Thomas’ finish, the Broncos brought pressure on the Georgetown goal with two corners and a goal-line scramble in the final 40 seconds.
“It was very nervy; I had to change my underwear twice,” Nolan said. “Santa Clara is a good team, and you have to give them a lot of credit. … We probably made it a little bit more difficult for ourselves in the last few minutes, but emotion kicks in, nerves kick in, and everything gets frantic.”
The hunger to pressure the ball in strong team defense, starting with the forwards, has allowed the Hoyas to excel on the counterattack all season; a national semifinal appearance is the result of Georgetown’s pace and defensive cohesiveness.
“You look at the kids, and you look at how excited they are, and that’s what it’s all about,” Nolan said. “It’s about these guys making their mark, playing some good soccer along the way, and leaving their year and leaving their college days with some special memories. It’s a fantastic feeling for us.”
Georgetown, seeded second in its region, will advance to take on No. 7/3 USC (17-4-2, 8-2-1 Pac-12) on Friday in San Jose, Calif. In the postgame huddle, Nolan added to the moment.
“I told them they need to learn the lyrics for the song, ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose,’” Nolan said. “And I’m not a particularly good singer, so I sang a verse and I think they nearly collapsed with laughter.”
Schechtman said while she had not previously heard of the song, she would learn it before leaving Wednesday for the West Coast.
Junior midfielder Rachel Corboz led the team with three shots. Her older sister, Daphne Corboz (COL ’15), who now plays for Manchester City, attended the quarterfinal game at Shaw Field, and Nolan took a moment to give credit to past generations of Hoyas.
“She’s been a huge part of our program, and she’s a big reason why we’re here today,” Nolan said about Daphne Corboz. “She wanted to celebrate with her sister, and she’s very excited for the program.”
USC looks to pose new difficulties for the Hoyas on Friday, but for now, the team will celebrate its victory, and its ascension from an unranked preseason position to second in Top Drawer Soccer’s most recent rankings.
“It’s amazing,” Schechtman said. “We knew this was a special team starting in preseason. We’ve surprised everybody along the road, and now people are finally putting our name down and watching out for us.”
Two games away from a national championship, the Hoyas will play against USC at Avaya Stadium in San Jose on Friday at 4:30 p.m. PST, 7:30 p.m. EST, in the second semifinal. The winner will play the winner of No. 6/7 North Carolina (17-3-4, 6-2-2 ACC) and No. 1 West Virginia (22-1-2, 8-0 Big XII) on Sunday at 6 p.m. PST (3 p.m. EST). ESPNU will televise all games.
“We’ve worked really hard for this,” Thomas said. “It’s come down to every single person working hard in practice, and that’s why we’re able to compete on the field. It started even before August. Last spring we were all ready, and this is what we wanted to do, and now we need to go and take it.”