The No. 5 Georgetown women’s soccer team barraged St. Francis in the first round of the NCAA tournament Sunday, winning 2-0 behind goals from senior forward Grace Damaska and graduate student defender Marina Paul.
The second-seeded Hoyas (17-2-3) advance to play the No. 22 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-4-6) at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Shaw Field. Earlier in the season, Georgetown bested Rutgers 2-1 in overtime Sept. 2.
Despite the 2-0 score line, the Hoyas ran rampant against the Red Flash (10-12), racking up 24 total shots and limiting St. Francis to just two.
Head Coach Dave Nolan gave credit, though, to the Red Flash’s ability to battle despite low possession and to always have someone in the way of Hoya attacks.
“We’re happy to win, and we’re happy to advance,” Nolan said. “Going into these kinds of games, they’re never easy. You’re dealing with a team who obviously has had some success this year, and this is their game. This is the biggest game of their careers, for many of them, and you’re going to get a great effort from them.”
St. Francis largely sat back, even after conceding the goals, making the game seem out of reach despite the two-goal margin. Damaska opened up the scoring as she faced two lines of defenders in a 30-yard area.
“The only way you can stretch them is to get it wide,” Nolan said bemoaning the lack of space. “And I thought in the first half we did a good job of getting it wide, but when we turned the corner and got crosses in they were already back on the goal line facing out. And for them, it’s bread and butter, just stepping out and clearing the ball. We never really were able to get our runs across them quick enough.”
The first goal came in the 30th minute when Georgetown managed to get behind the St. Francis back line. Junior midfielder Rachel Corboz played a ball through, and Damaska finished calmly past the keeper.
Graduate student forward Crystal Thomas, who provided a spark off the bench and created several chances, said the game provided a good chance to get used to the lighter Wilson balls the NCAA uses, and discussed the team’s focus shifting toward Rutgers.
“We came into this knowing we needed to move the ball fast, and we needed to work together and find spaces on the field that were open. This was a game where we had a lot of opportunities, and it was good preparation going into the next game. They kept fighting all the way to the end,” Thomas said. “Now we can capitalize on even more opportunities next weekend.”
After a bad miss right before halftime, the Hoyas started the second half strong, creating a string of more substantive chances.
“The field is hard and bumpy, so it took us a while to start to play,” Nolan said. “In the second half, we were able to play and connect more, and I think that was as much that they got tired, and we had a little bit more room. In the first half, they always seemed to have numbers around the ball.”
Georgetown earned 19 corner kicks to St. Francis’ three, and the breakthrough to seal the game came off a corner in the 52nd minute.
“With corner kicks, it’s about delivery and it’s about the desire to get on the end of it,” Nolan said. “And I think Rachel’s delivery has been good. I’m surprised we haven’t scored more. We were playing a lot more short corner kicks today, two-man corner kicks, because we needed to mix it up a little bit. And I don’t know, maybe one game we’ll score five off corner kicks.”
Paul headed in one of Corboz’s corners, possibly clattering into the Red Flash goalkeeper in the process. It went uncalled.
Should Georgetown beat Rutgers on Friday, it will take on the winner of Friday’s No. 15 Virginia (13-4-2) and Penn State (11-4-4) match.
“We definitely need to keep improving,” Thomas said. “That’s the biggest difference that this team brings, that every week we’re going to keep getting better. And we know that we need to work on a lot of different things this week to be ready for Rutgers on Friday. So we’re really excited for that game, and we’ll be ready.”