Georgetown men's soccer tops No. 6 Connecticut, 1-0, to take lead in Big East Blue Division
Friday, October 29, 2010; 12:44 AM
A moment before kickoff Thursday, Ben Slingerland gathered his Georgetown men's soccer teammates at midfield of North Kehoe Field for a final message: "There's a new beast in the Big East," the senior defender hollered, "and it's not a Husky. It's a Bulldog."
Ninety minutes later, the Hoyas made good on Slingerland's proclamation, defeating the sixth-ranked Connecticut Huskies, 1-0, for their ninth consecutive victory and first place in the conference's Blue Division, their best regular season since 1994.
Freshman Steve Neumann, a reserve who leads the Big East in points and is tied for the lead in goals, scored on a short header in the 74th minute for Georgetown (11-4-1, 7-1), which earned a first-round bye in the league tournament and a home quarterfinal Nov. 6. Second-ranked Louisville (13-0-2, 8-0) is atop the Red Division.
The Hoyas' victory all but ensured the program's first NCAA tournament berth in 13 years.
"We found out what we were about at the right time," said Coach Brian Wiese, in his fifth season. "You get into these runs, winning and losing, and we're in a nice winning one right now."
The Huskies (10-2-4, 4-1-3) entered the day with the fewest goals conceded in the nation (four) and a 545-minute scoreless streak since suffering their only previous loss, at No. 3 Maryland earlier this month.
But the Hoyas dictated play, and after striking the crossbar and right post, they went ahead when Ian Christianson lofted a 40-yard ball that reached Neumann deep in the penalty area for a header into the left corner.
"Ian hit a great pass, right onto my head, and all I had to do was tuck it away," Neumann said. "I always anticipate him putting it right where anyone wants it."
Despite starting just once this season, Neumann has 10 goals - nine in the past seven matches - as well as seven assists. "I have sunk into this role off the bench," he said. "I've been on a streak now, the goal looks really big, and I am finishing almost every shot I take."
The Hoyas, picked to finish fourth in their eight-team division, won their first two games, then slipped into an 0-4-1 rut before embarking on the current streak. They received votes in this week's coaches' poll, are No. 21 in Soccer America's rankings and 16th in the RPI system that helps determine NCAA at-large berths and seeds in the 48-team tournament.
Neither side was particularly enterprising in a slow-paced first half. A header by Georgetown's Tommy Muller skipped off the crossbar and Connecticut's Nickardo Blake handled the ball before it entered the net.
Early in the second half, the Hoyas' Seth C'deBaca tagged a 23-yard free kick off the right post. After the goal, Georgetown's Matthew Brutto made a diving stop on Mamadou Doudou Diouf's bid.
"In years past, we might have been intimidated by them," Slingerland said, "but we have just had so much confidence and we wanted to impose on them. We said, 'If we're the best team in the Big East, it's going to show.' "