The No. 6 Georgetown women’s soccer team (9-1-1, 1-0-1 Big East) defeated Xavier (6-6-1, 0-3-0 Big East) on Sunday at Northern Kentucky University to pick up its first conference win and extend its unbeaten streak to nine matches.
The 2-0 Hoya victory was thanks to an early goal from sophomore forward Amanda Carolan and a late counterattack finished off by graduate student Crystal Thomas.
The game came after a week off for Georgetown, as weather necessitated the postponement of Thursday’s scheduled match against Villanova (3-8-0, 1-1-0 Big East), which the team will make up Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Carolan noticed that the first goal, which stood as the lone goal for much of the match, mimicked almost exactly her score against Virginia, which also involved an assist from junior midfielder Chloe Knott.
“There was a punt, and their midfielder actually had it,” Carolan said. “Chloe stepped in and won the ball, and as the center-back stepped toward Chloe, I spun out and Chloe perfectly played the ball into the lane, and I took a touch and put it far post.”
The large size of the field would seem to favor the pace of Georgetown’s attacking midfielders, including senior forward Grace Damaska, who has scored eight goals already on the season. However, Xavier’s five defenders managed to keep much of the Hoya attack in check.
Head Coach Dave Nolan acknowledged the lack of clear-cut chances created.
“The problem with the field being so big was that we were so far from each other that we never managed to get enough numbers around the ball to combine well enough,” Nolan said. “It wasn’t like they played a 3-5-2, it was a 5-3-2, and it was almost like they man-marked our two wide players, and then their three center backs were going against Amanda and our midfield players.”
Georgetown’s impressive nonconference wins have propelled the team toward the top of national rankings, but have also made future conference foes wary of a formidable attack that has scored nearly 2.5 goals per game.
“What we’re starting to face now is that we do have a bull’s-eye on our back, and in some ways teams are over-respecting us by just sitting back in, and hoping to counterattack,” Nolan said. “Providence did it, and they got a tie out of it, and Xavier did it … But they didn’t get anywhere near the number of counterattacks against us that Providence did.”
As more conference teams understand Georgetown’s strength in pace and counterattacking, they have started to concede more possession, content to defend in their own final third.
The Musketeers did enjoy a period of ten minutes late in the second half where the Hoyas, pinned back, failed to fully clear the ball. Other than that one spell, though, along with sophomore forward Samantha Dewey’s occasional isolated hold-up play, Xavier never really mustered the threatening attacks.
Nolan remarked that Carolan has undergone a change in playing style since high school. While she used to float in behind defenders, she now plays more with her back to goal in a post-up role. Regardless, she remains a natural goal scorer.
“She’s proven it with the three goals she’s scored this year, that Amanda is probably our best finisher,” Nolan said. “She’s the player that you’d want with the ball at her feet, going in on goal … All three goals she’s scored for us have been very good finishes, and I don’t really remember her having chances that she’s missed. When she does get a chance, she tends to score it.”
Though initially nervous about changing her playing style, Carolan believes she has now found a home in her new position.
“Offensively, we have been doing well with getting more comfortable playing together,” Carolan said. “And we’re starting to understand how each other player likes to play … And the more we’re able to create opportunities for one another, the overall performance has been better.”
The next test for the Hoyas will come at St. John’s (6-2-4, 1-1-1 Big East), where the field will likely provide an even larger test than Northern Kentucky’s.
Located on top of a parking lot, Belson Stadium’s wind and irregular surface make it a particularly difficult place to play, as well as a common field for injuries to occur. Graduate student Marina Paul first injured her knee there in the Big East Championship Final against DePaul in 2015.
The match against St. John’s will be played at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Queens, N.Y.