Georgetown women's soccer has reached new heights

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 26, 2010; 1:07 AM

Like most Georgetown students, the 26 members of the womens' soccer team packed their bags and headed to the airport this week. But, unlike their classmates, they weren't headed home for Thanksgiving.

Instead, the team boarded a flight Thursday afternoon bound for Columbus, Ohio, hoping to extend what's been, by far, the best season in the program's 18-year history.

Until this fall, the Hoyas had played exactly one game in the NCAA tournament, a 2-1 loss to William & Mary in 2007. On Friday, though, Georgetown will face 17th-ranked Ohio State in the round of eight.

"I had a train home and I had to cancel that," star midfielder Ingrid Wells said with a laugh. "But obviously, we're all happy to be in this position."

And somewhat surprised, particularly after a regular season marked by historic achievements and a few disappointments.

The Hoyas (15-6-2) opened with a program-best 7-0 start but suffered consecutive losses on the road against traditional powerhouses Santa Clara and Stanford in September, dropping them out of the national rankings. Then, after posting a 7-3-1 record in Big East play, they were upset by South Florida in the teams' quarterfinal meeting in the conference tournament. Georgetown had beaten South Florida, 3-1, a month earlier.

But now the Hoyas have reached new heights.

After routing Siena in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Nov. 12, Georgetown eked out a victory in penalty kicks over top-seeded Maryland in College Park on Nov. 14. Then last Saturday on a frozen field in Minneapolis against Minnesota, Samantha Baker sent the Hoyas into the quarterfinals in heart-stopping fashion.

The junior forward scored directly off a corner kick with 44 seconds remaining in regulation. Baker now has five goals in 22 games, and four of them have come off a corner kick taken with her left foot. Against the Gophers, her high, curving corner was fumbled by Minnesota goalkeeper Cat Parkhill, handing the Hoyas a 1-0 victory.

"I have a good delivery with my left foot because an in-swinging ball is always more dangerous than out-swinging ball," said Baker, who is right-footed. "It puts more pressure on the goalie to make a decision if the ball is swinging toward her rather than away."

The dramatic win gave the Hoyas a school-record 15 victories and their first triumph over a Big Ten opponent. But if they're going advance to the College Cup - soccer's version of the Final Four - next week in Cary, N.C., they'll have to beat the Buckeyes (16-4-2), the Big Ten's regular season champion.

Ohio State, which eliminated Virginia in the round of 16 on Saturday, has outscored its opponents 36-14 and boasts the Big Ten's offensive player of the year (junior forward Paige Maxwell, 10 goals), defensive player of the year (senior defender Cassie Dickerson) and coach of the year (Lori Walker).

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