Georgetown may be the new kid on the block at this weekend’s College Cup, the final four of NCAA soccer, but that doesn’t mean the Hoyas are going to be star-struck.
“We’re not happy with just getting there,” senior forward Andy Reimer said. “We’re there to win it. It’s not a win-win situation for us. It’s a we’re-going-to-win-this-game situation and a we’re-going-to-win-the-national-championship situation. We’re not content with just this accomplishment of being in the final four.”
The Hoyas (19-3-2) qualified for the trip to Hoover, Ala., and the first College Cup in the program’s history with a 3-1 victory over San Diego last weekend, setting up a semifinal match Friday with one of the sport’s superpowers in Maryland, a rare matchup between the two squabbling schools in any athletic event.
Georgetown has played the Terrapins during the preseason the past few years, but the two schools haven’t met officially since 2009, with Maryland holding an unfathomable 27-0 mark in the all-time series.
“They’re good, everyone knows it, and that’s fine,” senior midfielder Ian Christianson said. “We embrace that challenge.”
This will be the Terps’ 12th College Cup, which the Hoyas say gives Georgetown an opportunity to play without pressure as the underdog.
“The whole season we’ve really trusted how we play,” senior defender Tommy Muller said. “This is the biggest stage we’ve ever been on, and obviously there are added pressures, but I think there is freedom in being there and not being satisfied with that. There’s a huge amount of freedom in knowing that on any day, we can beat anyone.”
Still, it will be tough to top Maryland, which has the kind of offensive firepower few teams can match.
“Maryland tries to out-athlete you,” Georgetown coach Brian Wiese said. “They’re hugely deep and hugely athletic. Every player is highly entertaining and very efficient. They’re just a terrific group of players. The similarities between the two of us are that they believe really fiercely in what they do, and our guys believe really fiercely in what we do.”
The Hoyas built a lot of that belief during an offseason trip to Barcelona, in which the team’s seniors absorbed the style and passion of the players in soccer-mad Spain and vowed to improve on a spotty 2011 campaign during which several failed opportunities kept Georgetown out of the NCAA tournament.
“I think we got really excited to want to play quality soccer,” Muller said of the trip. “We looked at Barcelona as the picture of what close-to-perfect soccer looks like. It was like, ‘We want to play like that.’ And we got excited about trying to bring that quality every day to training and to games. I think what worked perfectly this year is that we have the quality of players to do that.”
The Hoyas’ primary goal heading into this year was capturing the Big East crown, and though they fell short, dropping a 3-2 double-overtime decision to Notre Dame in the championship game at PPL Park in suburban Philadelphia, that gantlet prepared them well for the rigors of the NCAA tournament.
“Getting to [the Big East final] was probably tougher than getting to this final,” senior midfielder Jimmy Nealis said. “The Big East tournament was just a little bit harder and prepared us that much more. That made us ready for this.”
Georgetown is expecting a hard-fought battle between the geographic, if not on-field, rivals, given the spirited nature of the teams’ preseason meetings. With much more than bragging rights on the line, the action on the pitch will be ramped up.
“We already know what it’s like to play Maryland, and even if it was preseason, it was intense and really fun,” Christianson said. “So taking that to the biggest stage in college soccer is going to be awesome.”
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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