The Georgetown women’s soccer team entered the National Collegiate Athletic Association College Cup Semifinals on Nov. 30 to take on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels. The Big East champions came in riding an undefeated record. Throughout the NCAA tournament, Georgetown advanced through four rounds, defeating powerhouses Duke and Baylor University. However, the Hoyas dropped their first game of the season 1-0 in a double-overtime thriller. This was a bitter end to a historic season for the Blue and Gray. The top-seeded Hoyas (21-1-3, 10-0-1 Big East) traveled to Cary, N.C., last week for the four-team College Cup, marking their second trip in the last three years. UNC (21-4-2, 10-0-0 ACC) has long been considered one of the true powerhouses of NCAA Division I women’s college soccer. They are the only team in the country that have played in all 37 NCAA tournaments. On Friday, the Tar Heels made their 28th College Cup appearance, of which they have won 21. Friday’s matchup was the first-ever between Georgetown and UNC. The two schools played in front of a sellout crowd in Cary, mostly filled with Tar Heel fans. The first half went back and forth, with both teams creating good scoring opportunities. UNC had five corner kicks, but the steady Georgetown defense cleared the ball each time. Senior goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman, who was named a first team All-American by the United States Soccer Coaches, made several crucial saves to keep the score even at zero. Senior forward Caitlin Farrell, the other Hoya to receive the same two accolades as Schechtman, beat her defender down the right side and crossed the ball into the box in the 21st minute, but UNC knocked the ball away. Sophomore midfielder Grace Nguyen had three shots for Georgetown in the first half, including one in the 24th minute that sailed just over the crossbar. In the second half, UNC gained control of the match, and the Hoyas relied on their defense to keep them in the game. The Tar Heels added seven corner kicks in the second half and took eight shots, three of which were on goal. Georgetown’s offense struggled, taking four shots, none of which were on goal. The Hoyas also had no corner kick opportunities in the frame. In the 83rd minute, Schechtman leapt to save a bouncing ball from going out of bounds on the goal line. When she landed, she came down awkwardly on her knee and immediately crumpled to the ground in pain. She had to be helped off the field, and junior backup goalkeeper Lauren Gallagher was thrust into action, marking her sixth game in three seasons on the team. “I was hoping Arielle would be okay,” Gallagher said. “Coming into the 80th minute of any game can be tough; in an atmosphere like this, it makes it a lot more difficult. I knew I had my team at my back.” Less than two minutes later, Gallagher was put to the test, as Georgetown committed a foul inside its own penalty area and UNC was awarded a penalty kick. The shot was high and slightly to Gallagher’s right, but the junior made an incredible play. She jumped to her right and cleared the ball over the bar with a violent punch. “I just guessed right,” said Gallagher in a postgame press conference. “I was in the right spot at the right time. It was a well-hit shot, but luckily I was there.” Nolan commented on Gallagher’s ability to step up on the big stage. “We had to deal with a lot of adversity when Arielle went down. But we knew what we had coming on the field. Lauren stepped up and made a great save on the penalty kick, boosted her confidence and handled the rest of the game like a veteran,” Nolan said. A scoreless final few minutes led to overtime, which consisted of two 10-minute periods. The Tar Heels’ depth helped them later, as the Hoyas’ tired legs kept them on the defensive for the majority of the first half of overtime. UNC had a free kick just outside the box in the 92nd minute, which was deflected away before it reached Gallagher. As the first overtime came to a close, it had a one-on-one opportunity against Gallagher, who stepped off the line and forced the shot wide left. After 100 minutes of scoreless play, the match moved into its second half of overtime. With less than two minutes to play in the period, an unsuccessful Georgetown offensive attack turned into a UNC counter attack. “They cleared it,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said, “and all of a sudden they were going the other way.” The Tar Heels quickly raced down the field and scored on a give-and-go to UNC senior defender Julia Ashley, marking the game’s only goal and the end of Georgetown’s season. Although not the result the Hoyas had hoped for, they played a great game against a formidable opponent. “I give credit to Carolina. They found a way to win the game. They showed a bit of poise in the right moment,” Nolan said. “I felt we had enough chances that maybe we could have gotten something, but to be fair to them, they had some chances too. It’s always hard when the game finishes so close to the end.” After the tournament, graduate student forward Kyra Carusa was one of 11 players named to the College Cup All-Tournament team. When reflecting on his team’s season in the postgame press conference, Nolan said, “I couldn’t be any prouder of these kids. Huge credit to our kids for a great year and for leaving everything on the field the way champions should.” Georgetown’s season was the most successful in program history. The Hoyas won their third straight Big East Championship, their second straight Big East regular season title and finished with 21 wins, the most in team history. “It’s been an incredible season,” Farrell said. “I couldn’t love my teammates any more, as hard as it is to go out this way. It was a great season, and no one can take that away.”
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