Yet a costly Georgetown turnover resulted in a breakaway goal as the Wildcats hung on, 15-12, before 2,517 at Villanova Stadium.
The loss ends the season for the Hoyas (6-9) short of the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2007 and with their first losing record since 1989.
The Wildcats (7-7) led by four at halftime and the end of the third quarter.
The Hoyas closed to 14-11 following a goal by sophomore Charlie McCormick with 3 minutes 19 seconds remaining.
Georgetown won the ensuing face-off but Villanova junior John LoCascio, the national leader in caused turnovers, added another to his list and in the resulting fast break senior Jack Rice scored from point blank for a 15-11 lead with 2 minutes 27 seconds to play.
“This is a unfamiliar territory for us,” Georgetown first-year Coach Kevin Warne said. “Some of the guys didn’t have the same kick in practice. They enjoyed the moment which is great. . . . At halftime we took off their jerseys and shoulder pads and we talked. I asked them why is your stuff on the floor? Because we’re starting over.”
The Big East tournament winner receives an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
The Hoyas advanced to the conference tournament with a 15-7 win over Rutgers last week.
They had reason to be confident Thursday even though they had lost the regular season meeting with the Wildcats, 8-6.
Five starters missed that game; four were injured and one was suspended after he had been ejected from the previous game.
All five played Thursday.
Among them, senior Brian Casey, in his first extended playing time since suffering a stress fracture on March 17, finished with one goal and three assists.
Overall, sophomore Reilly O’Connor added three assists and senior Travis Comeau scored three goals.
Rice finished with a game-high five goals, on five shots, for Villanova.
“Being in the program for three years it was a different atmosphere,” Comeau said. “At the beginning we were all kind of shocked. But there’s a new standard here and everyone bought in and that’s when we started to peak. That’s what you have to do in Division I lacrosse to be successful.”
In the first semifinal, Syracuse defeated Notre Dame, 9-3. The teams had met last week; the Orange won, 10-4, and in the second half it outscored the Fighting Irish 9-1.
Syracuse and Villanova will meet in the conference title game on Saturday at noon.
On Thursday, senior JoJo Marasco had four assists for the Orange (12-3). Three players had single goals for the Irish (10-4).
In the second semifinal, the Hoyas scored on their first three shots to take a 3-2 lead on a goal by sophomore Joe Bucci with 6:09 left in the first quarter.
To that point, Villanova sophomore goalie Greg Carlson had not made save.
After the third goal “I turned to my goalie coach, of course, and yelled at him,” Villanova Coach Mike Corrado said. “But a lot of those goals weren’t on shots he was going to save.”
The Hoyas closed to 7-6 on a goal by Casey but gave up 5-0 run.
Overall, they finished with their first losing record since a 5-8 mark in 1989, the year before Hall of Fame coach Dave Urick arrived from Hobart.