Hoyas are seeking elite status

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 17, 2010

Through seven games, the Georgetown women's soccer team is undefeated and, for the most part, unchallenged, having outscored opponents 27-2 (and one goal came off the foot of a Hoyas defender). The Hoyas have taken 61 shots on goal to their opponents' 12 and have enjoyed a 55-7 edge in corner kicks.

But Georgetown Coach Dave Nolan isn't completely satisfied.

"I'm still upset about the two goals we gave up, I really am," said Nolan, smiling. "I'm greedy. I want lots of goals and less goals against."

In past years, getting off to the best start in school history and then ascending higher in the coaches' top 25 poll - 15th - than ever before, might have been enough for the Hoyas to declare success. Not this year. Nolan and his players have much higher aspirations: They want to be mentioned among the nation's elite. This weekend, they can take a big step toward reaching that goal with a strong showing against a pair of traditional titans - 11th-ranked Santa Clara and second-ranked Stanford - in Santa Clara, Calif.

"We're at the stage where we want to be considered one of the best," said Nolan, a native of Dublin who played college soccer at Seton Hall and has been a coach at Georgetown for 12 seasons, the past seven as head coach. "In order to do that, you can't be afraid to play the best. I wouldn't have scheduled these games four years ago."

The Hoyas' prolific attack is directed by Ingrid Wells, a dynamic midfielder whose small stature belies her tenacious style of play. The Upper Montclair, N.J., native redshirted her sophomore season to play for the U.S. under-20 national team, which she helped to the 2008 Under-20 World Cup in Chile. She's the Hoyas' best all-around player, and with five goals and 16 points this season, is on pace to set numerous school records, including points in a season (26).

"She's the 'Little General,' " Nolan said. "She's 5 foot 2 in heels. But I've always said, 'If you're good enough, you're big enough.' She's a shy kid, but on the field she'll kick her mom if it will help her win the game."

"I think it's a good nickname," said Wells, who was included on the preseason watch list for the Hermann Trophy, the top individual award in college soccer. "I'm different when I get on the field. I really care about it, so I don't mind telling people what I think they should be doing, or what they should be doing better."

Wells represents half of the Big East's most potent one-two offensive punch. Junior Kelly D'Ambrisi is equally as much of a concern for opposing teams. On their own, they're dangerous. Together, they've proven to be unstoppable. All three of D'Ambrisi's goals this season have been set up by Wells.

"We kind of always know where the other is on the field," D'Ambrisi said of their chemistry. "I can't really explain it."

One of the driving forces behind the Hoyas' rise is an increase in funding for the program, which has allowed Nolan to compete for the nation's top high school recruits. Four years ago, the Big East implored its member schools to put a greater emphasis on soccer in the hopes of becoming a national power, as the conference is in basketball. The Hoyas responded by phasing in three scholarships each year and now have 12, which is two short of the NCAA maximum but up from zero in 2006.

"As much as I'm a genius," Nolan cracked, "much of it has to do with the fact we have the financial means to go and attract some players. . . . Getting Ingrid was a major coup for us."


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