One by one, Georgetown players fell like bowling pins onto the browning turf at wind-whipped Shaw Field, leveled by the cruel and abrupt manner in which their soccer season had just ended.
Fourteen seconds from entering a penalty-kick tiebreaker to decide the NCAA tournament second-round match against Southern Methodist on Sunday, the Hoyas needed one more clearance to dodge danger. Defender Brendan McDonough and goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski tried to make a play on a cross whipped toward the near post.
McDonough accidentally redirected it into his own net, handing the match to the Mustangs, 2-1.
“Brendan was going for it, I was going for it,” Marcinkowski said. “And it just happens.”
What had happened in regulation made the 14th-seeded Hoyas (14-4-2) feel even worse about the outcome. They had taken the lead on Jacob Montes’s early goal but allowed the equalizer in the 82nd minute, then somehow failed to score on a sure sequence with 60 seconds left in regulation.
Extra time brought own-goal heartbreak.
“The poor guy is crushed,” Hoyas Coach Brian Wiese said of McDonough, a junior co-captain and rock in the heart of the back line. “If you’re going to lose that way, he’s the only guy you want that to happen to. You don’t want to put that onto [someone else]. He’s the one that can carry that burden.”
It’s a burden the Hoyas will carry into the winter after winning the Big East championship at home a week earlier and qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in six seasons.
The Mustangs (17-2-1) will face No. 3 North Carolina in the round of 16 next weekend. The American Athletic Conference champions are unbeaten in 12 straight (11-0-1) and have conceded two goals in the past 10 matches. They’ve done it lately without star midfielder Mauro Cichero (nine goals, seven assists), who is injured.
Georgetown went ahead in the 18th minute when Declan McCabe took on two defenders on the left side of the penalty area and crossed behind an SMU player to connect with Montes for a sliding one-timer from seven yards.
The Hoyas almost doubled the lead in the 60th minute, but Christopher Lema’s free kick from 30 yards struck the crossbar.
McDonough and Peter Schropp continued to shield Marcinkowski, but in the 82nd minute, the Hoyas failed to clear a corner kick from danger.
SMU’s Nicky Hernandez recycled it, lifting the ball from 25 yards deep into the box. With the ball fluttering in the wind, Marcinkowski stayed back instead of stepping out to punch or catch. Jordan Cano got to it, nodding the ball into the left side.
“Even when they got it,” Montes said, “we were still confident we were going to win the game.”
The Hoyas should have won the game in regulation. With about a minute left, Derek Dodson’s bid hit the right post from 10 yards and, with a chance inside the six-yard box and goalkeeper Michael Nelson out of position, McCabe didn’t strike the ball with enough venom, allowing a defender to block it at the goal line.
“I don’t know how we don’t score,” Wiese said. “I mean, come on, right? It’s harder not to put it in. But that’s the tournament – these little moments you take or you don’t take. Unfortunately, we paid for it.”
In extra time, both goalkeepers made sterling saves during furious, end-to-end action: Nelson dived left to deny Montes’s 25-yarder and Marcinkowski slapped aside Garrett McLaughlin’s running attempt. Marcinkowski rose to the occasion again in the 108th minute when McLaughlin broke into the clear.
And then the own goal happened.
“It really hurts because I think this team feels it could be in the College Cup,” Wiese said. “They’ll have to use this for real motivation in the offseason.”
FORDHAM 1, VIRGINIA 0: In Charlottesville, Eric Ohlendorf scored on a six-yard header in the 83rd minute as the Rams (14-5-2) stunned the No. 11 Cavaliers (12-4-5).
BUTLER 3, VCU 2: Alex Lehtinen, Lewis Suddick and Brandon Guhl scored in a five-minute span early in the second half as the Bulldogs (14-4-2) upset the No. 16 Rams (12-7-0) in Richmond.
INDIANA 3, OLD DOMINION 0: In Bloomington, Ind., Grant Lillard scored in the 36th minute, Mason Toye extended the lead four minutes into the second half and Austin Panchot added a goal as the No. 2 Hoosiers (16-0-5) defeated the Monarchs (13-6-2).
MICHIGAN STATE 3, VIRGINIA TECH 0: Ryan Sierakowski scored in the fifth minute and Dejuan Jones and Michael Pimlott added first-half goals as the No. 7 Spartans (12-3-3) clobbered the Hokies (10-10-0) in East Lansing, Mich.