AWK’s 2012 NCAA Soccer Preview – Georgetown – Hoya Hopes Rest on Swift Rebuilding Effort

Daphne Corboz

Georgetown & Daphne Corboz Figure To Be Stretched As They Search For A Way Back to The Big Dance

Preview Index

General | Conference Realignment Breakdown | Final 2012 Recruiting Class Rankings | Early 2013/2014 Recruiting Class Rankings | Coaching Changes

Big Sky | DI Independents | Great West | SWAC

ACC – Clemson | NC State
Big XII – Iowa State | Kansas | Oklahoma | TCU | Texas | Texas Tech
Big East – Cincinnati | DePaul | Pittsburgh | Providence | Rutgers | Seton Hall | South Florida | St. John’s (NY) | Syracuse | UConn | Villanova
Big Ten – Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota | Nebraska | Northwestern | Purdue | Wisconsin
Mid-Majors – Central Michigan | Denver | Florida Gulf Coast | Harvard | Illinois State | La Salle | New Mexico | Rice | Richmond | Samford | Stephen F. Austin | Toledo | UMass | Utah State | Western Michigan | William & Mary
Pac-12 – Arizona | Arizona State | Cal | Colorado | Oregon | Oregon State | USC | Utah | Washington | Washington State
SEC – Alabama | Arkansas | LSU | Mississippi State | Missouri | Ole Miss | South Carolina | Vanderbilt
WCC – BYU | Gonzaga | Loyola Marymount | Portland | San Francisco | St. Mary’s (CA)

The story wasn’t supposed to end like that for Ingrid Wells and the Georgetown program she so symbolized for the past half decade in D.C. A season after a stirring run to the Elite Eight, the Hoyas were home for the holidays early in 2011, dropping all the way out of the NCAA Tournament, an unthinkable proposition at the beginning of the season. Perhaps Wells and Georgetown’s wildly successful 2010 season had made some forget that the program was once underfunded, unloved, and largely ignored by most of the college soccer world.

The Hoyas have made strides under head coach Dave Nolan but were still considered to have a long way to go in becoming national contenders heading into their breakthrough 2010 season. Despite last year’s disappointment, it was still a far cry from the early years when GU finished three of their first four years in the Big East in the basement, winning just four league matches in those four years. The Hoyas wouldn’t qualify for the postseason until 1999 and would have to wait until 2005 to pick up their first postseason win, a 1-0 victory over Syracuse in a Big East Tournament first round matchup.

In between, Georgetown’s stature in the college soccer world would arguably hit rock bottom as the program’s head coach for five years, Diane Drake, left the Hoyas for the vacant position at CAA side George Mason. While the Patriots were once a force in college soccer, those days had long since gone, and to see Drake, who hadn’t exactly set the world on fire in the nation’s capital, jilt the Hoyas for GMU must have seemed a real slap in the face for the Georgetown faithful. In the end though, things would work out quite well for GU.

Assistant Dave Nolan stepped to the fore and promptly delivered the most wins in program history in 2005, his second year in charge. 2006 would be an ugly year, with the program’s 5-9-5 mark the program’s worst since the team only won four matches in Leonel Popol’s last year in charge in 1998. It ended up being a big step back to take a bigger step forward as the Hoyas went out and made program history a season later in 2007. With fourteen wins, including most crucially, a Big East Tournament win on the road at UConn, Georgetown found themselves on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble and went dancing for the first time in their history.

Though that first trip to the Big Dance ended in a disappointing first round loss to William & Mary, it was thought to be a potential catalyst for a new Golden Age of Georgetown Soccer. Instead, it opened up a window to frustration as the Hoyas had reasonably good seasons in 2008 and 2009, winning a combined twenty-five matches in those two seasons but ending up on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble in each despite finishes of second and third in their Big East division. In both cases, a shaky non-conference RPI hurt the Hoyas and ensured that there would be heartbreak come Selection Monday.

2010 was conceivably a crossroads season for the Hoyas. The joy of 2007 was beginning to wear off, and Nolan was desperate to prove that his side was ready to finally rise to the next level and become a consistent contender for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Hopes were probably muted a bit after the club breezed through most of its non-conference matches but fell to the two best clubs on the docket, Santa Clara and Stanford. In Big East play, the club would charge forward and all but wrapped up a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a draw against Notre Dame on the last day of the regular season.

But few tipped the Hoyas for postseason success after they laid an egg in the Big East Tournament, losing their quarterfinal match with a hungry South Florida team and squandering the home field advantage they had gained after finishing second in their division. But Georgetown made some magic in November, crushing Siena in round one before pulling off one of the most stunning results in program history, as they eliminated #1 seeded Maryland on penalties in a Capital City derby that marked the first time the clubs had played a competitive fixture. Minnesota would be downed in the Sweet Sixteen, sending the Hoyas to Columbus and the Elite Eight. Ohio State would be a bridge too far for GU, but the sensational NCAA Tournament run had likely only heightened expectations for 2011, a season where Wells would be driven to bring home a trophy to cap off her college career.

After some easy tuneup games to begin the new year, the real test came to town in the form of powerhouse Stanford. Despite home advantage and the Card being without some of their stars, Georgetown were utterly outclassed on the day, losing 4-1 and raising doubts as to just how for this club could go. Those doubts became more pronounced after GU’s next match resulted in a 3-1 defeat to William & Mary. While the club recovered to win their next three, they were flirting with the NCAA Tournament bubble already, an affliction that was only made worse by a Big East opening match loss to Seton Hall.

Georgetown would rally furiously to win five of their next six, but the lack of quality wins was becoming more pronounced as the season wound down. Chance after chance at such a win slipped by the Hoyas, with the best that they could offer being a 3-2 win at Notre Dame. The tea leaves still weren’t looking good for the club heading into the postseason though, and Nolan surely knew that his club needed to make a run to stand a chance on Selection Monday. The Hoyas would advance to the semi-finals of the Big East Tournament with a 3-1 win over Syracuse, earning them what was essentially an all-or-nothing match against West Virginia.

But in the biggest match of the season and one of the biggest in program history, Georgetown took a beating, falling 5-1 after four unanswered goals in the second half. It was a sad sight indeed to see Wells’ college career end on such a sour note. While the Hoyas held out faint hopes that their profile would be good enough to make the field of sixty-four, the selection committee disagreed, with the club’s lack of quality wins likely dooming it. What made Georgetown’s fate sadder was how utterly avoidable it seemed in retrospect. A program done in countless times by their non-conference scheduling practices fell into the same trap yet again in 2011. Nolan and the Hoyas have to learn at some point, right?

No matter the difficulty of the club’s non-conference schedule this season, they face some challenges with the loss of a giant chunk of the club’s offense from last year. It was an attack that scored the most goals in league play of any club in the Big East, scoring an absurd thirty-two goals in eleven league games, or almost three goals a match. Repeating that feat might be nigh-impossible this season, with the loss of four of the club’s top five scorers from last season.

Particularly hard hit is the midfield, which loses the likes of First Team All-American Ingrid Wells. One of the best pure playmakers in the college ranks of recent years, Wells was a marvel to watch for the Hoyas during her career and finished with a flourish, with nine goals and twelve assists to her name. She signed a professional contract in Sweden not soon after the conclusion of the season and could yet be a factor with the USWNT. Also gone is forward Camille Trujillo and midfielder Kelly D’Ambrisi, who combined for sixteen goals and eight assists last year, robbing the club of even more offense.

While sophomore Daphne Corboz returns after a stunning ten goal debut, nobody else with more than two goals last year will be joining her, meaning the Hoyas may desperately be searching for some offense to support her. The club does return most of their defense though, and they’ll likely need that group to excel if they are to get a sniff of the NCAA Tournament.

Goalkeepers

For the second straight season, Georgetown finds itself having to replace a graduated senior starter in goal. This year, the club has to do without Elizabeth Hanna, who started seventeen of the club’s matches as a senior. Hanna had spent most of her career as the backup to star goalkeeper Jackie DesJardin but finally got her chance to shine last year. After beginning the season hurt, Hanna won the starting job in early September and never let go, making the #1 spot her own for the rest of the year. In her wake are a ton of challengers for the throne, five to be precise.

From a pure experience standpoint, the nod would appear to be towards senior Hanna Monson. An unused backup for two seasons, Monson began the season as the club’s starter and posted a 3-1-0 record in goal before giving way to Hanna once the departed starter was fit. Monson will have to fend off a lot of challengers to win the job though. Kristen Insana is another senior but has even less experience than Monson, having not played in her three seasons with the club. Redshirt freshman Emma Newins didn’t play last year (obviously) but has been tipped for a bright future by Nolan.

The club also adds a pair of highly touted freshmen to the mix as well. Christina Mangels has been a star for the Albertson Fury club in ECNL competition and has great range while also being a good three inches taller than any of her rivals in goal. Lauren Trower also joins up after being a mainstay on the Region I ODP team and will also compete for minutes for the Hoyas right away. It’s a very fluid situation for Georgetown having to replace another starter, but in that regard they’re no worse off than they were coming into last year and have plenty of choices available to them.

Defenders

The Hoyas ended up in the middle of the Big East in goals conceded in league play, but that ranking could improve a fair bit this year with the vast majority of the club’s defense returning for the new campaign. The club does have to replace senior Gabby Miller though, one of the steadiest hands on the backline for the past four seasons. Miller would have likely started every match in her Georgetown career had she not been kept out by injuries for a chunk of the middle part of the season last year.

The senior leader this year could be Christina O’Tousa, though it’s very much “could”, as the Californian might also end up in the midfield to plug one of the gaps there. O’Tousa locked down a starting spot in the middle of her sophomore season and has been a key member of the squad ever since, with her versatility making her invaluable for Nolan. Emily Menges is one of many juniors likely to crack the starting lineup in defense this season. The New York native has blinding pace which she can use to effect going forward as well and was a breakout star as a freshman in 2010. She retained her place in the starting lineup last season, starting every match for the club and looks like a bedrock for the present and future for the Hoyas.

Towering classmate Mary Kroening also should be a sure thing in defense and was another who locked down a starting spot as a rookie during the club’s magical 2010. Kroening was a starter again for almost all of last season and is a danger on set pieces thanks to her size, logging two goals and two assists last season. Another junior, Colleen Dinn, could end up playing in defense or up front and started all but one game last season after being mainly a reserve as a rookie. Given the club’s dearth of attackers though, she might be most likely to see time on the frontline.

The shuffle could open up more time for yet another junior, Alex Bushman, who is a marauding full-back that saw a big boost of minutes last season, including seven starts after being sparsely used as a rookie. Another full-back, true freshman Neela Mohan, looks like one of the picks of a good recruiting class and comes from the powerful San Diego Surf club team that saw much success in ECNL play. Despite the loss of Miller, this group has a lot of versatile options, and with more experience, they could be one of the best defenses in the league this year.

Midfielders

Wells’ contribution to the program is simply incalculable, as she wrote her name into club, and conference, legend with four seasons of immense performances. Forty-six assists total in her career was a stunning return, and Wells was a dangerous threat in front of goal as well, finishing with nine goals last season also. Her intangibles were off the chart as well, as she was a fantastic leader, and those qualities may actually be harder to replace for the Hoyas.

In that respect, the subsequent loss of senior Kelly D’Ambrisi isn’t going to help very much. Overshadowed by the brilliance of Wells to a large extent, D’Ambrisi was a star in her own right in many ways, forming one of the nation’s best midfield duos with Wells. Though her offense never really matched Wells’, the Connecticut product still had the ability to threaten in front of goal and was usually good for a handful of goals and assists each season and pulled down All-Region Second Team honors last season in a fine senior season.

In truth, Georgetown’s plans last season suffered a major blow right off the bat when Kaley Blain went down right off the bat with an ACL injury after just one start. Blain had been a star of the club’s 2010 run with six assists as a rookie and had been an important mark of balance as a defensive midfielder to help free Wells and D’Ambrisi in the offense. With Blain out, D’Ambrisi had to sit in deeper, and Georgetown ended up being a little less secure defensively against the better clubs they faced. If Blain is healthy and on form, she could be a great leader for this unit despite essentially entering just her second full season of play.

The yin to Blain’s yang might be Corboz, who could be the club’s main source of offense as a sophomore. Corboz was a little bit streaky as a rookie with four goals in the first five games of the season and another four in the final four games of the year. The New Jersey native came into Georgetown with immense potential and still has plenty of room to grow and could be the club’s next superstar. Beyond Corboz and Blain though, there are a lot of questions. Junior Alexa St. Martin has been one of the club’s top reserves for two seasons and showed a little offensive punch with two goals and three assists last year and could be in line for more starting minutes this year for the Hoyas given that offensive spark.

Classmate Amanda Soderlund overcame an injury hit first season to seal a spot as a frequently used reserve last year, while sophomore Jillian DeGennaro played out wide off the bench in a handful of games last year. O’Tousa could also be in contention for a starting spot in midfield if she’s not needed in defense. Losing Wells and D’Ambrisi can’t be underestimated, but the return of Blain along with the growth of Corboz means this group isn’t starting from scratch. Filling the other slots could be something that makes or breaks Georgetown’s season though.

Forwards

This unit looks like it could be problematic for Georgetown with the loss of its top two options to graduation. Trujillo made dramatic strides forward throughout her Georgetown career, going from a bench player as a rookie to one of the league’s top forwards in her final two seasons with the club. Her big breakthrough as a junior with thirteen goals was a big reason for the Hoyas’ success in 2010 and laid down a marker for another potentially strong season last year. She would oblige with twelve goals and impressively scored eleven of those against league foes after a very slow start to the season with just one in her first ten matches. That closing run included braces against Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Villanova, with no Big East foe able to hold her without a shot on goal.

Adding to Georgetown’s conundrum is the loss of Samantha Baker, another strong forward for the Hoyas. Baker began her career with a bang but struggled for consistency throughout her college tenure. A big target who was a threat to score directly on corner kicks as well as possessing a ridiculously potent long throw, Baker meant offense last season with seven goals and eight assists while also causing a pair of own goals against Notre Dame thanks to her long throws.

The pair of departures has left the club worryingly thin on offense. Junior Kaitlin Brenn certainly looks to be the top option this year and is definitely the most experienced. Touted as a “pure finisher” by Nolan, Brenn was impressive as a rookie with seven goals while almost exclusively coming off the bench. She’d make a handful of starts last year, but the offense dried up almost completely, with the second-year player scoring just once. Needless to say, that strike rate has to go up if she’s to lead the line this year.

Sophomores Jessica Clinton and Vanessa Skrumbis were mainly used as reserves last year, but neither made much of an impression in front of goal, with Nolan likely hoping for a big breakthrough from one or both this year as he searches for goals. Dinn hasn’t been involved much offensively so far but could also get an audition here.

Given some of the uncertainty here, there could be room for rookie Sarah Adams to make an immediate impression. A Californian who has torn it up in both USYS and ECNL competition for the San Diego Surf club, Adams could well find herself in the starting mix very early this year if she lives up to advance billing. Even if Brenn gets back to form, this unit has tons of question marks surrounding it and could be a big worry for the club in 2012.

Outlook

Well, momentum certainly isn’t with the Hoyas this season. Everything seemed to be set up for them so well last season in terms of making another run to the NCAA Tournament and potentially doing some damage while there. But they paid the price for a lack of quality wins, and now there’s a good chance they’ll still be paying a price with the sheer volume of players lost this season, especially on the offense. The backline could be quality, but the Hoyas need to replace another starting keeper, while Corboz might have to carry the offense on her back this season. The Hoyas certainly have some players with potential in both the midfield and frontline, but that potential has to equal production this year for Georgetown.

More than that though, the Hoyas can’t spurn opportunities for results in non-conference play. Santa Clara and Stanford on the road will be tough, but games against James Madison and Hofstra in late August could end up being make or break. While the Big East isn’t a juggernaut, it still may take a big effort in the league to get this club over the line and back into the NCAA Tournament. With some of the questions looming over Georgetown though, that’s far from a given.

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