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Georgetown pummels Pittsburgh in NCAA men’s soccer tournament opener

Men’s tournament roundup

Dylan Nealis scores the first of his two goals against Pittsburgh at Shaw Field. (Rafael Suanes/Georgetown University)
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High expectations have followed the Georgetown men’s soccer program into the NCAA tournament almost every autumn for years. The path to the College Cup has been lined with home dates and favored status.

In that sense, this year is no different than most. But over the course of four weekends, Coach Brian Wiese and the trophy-hungry Hoyas hope the 2019 campaign finishes with cheers rather than tears.

On Sunday, the No. 3 seed in the 48-team tournament took the first step toward its first Final Four appearance since 2012 by smashing Pittsburgh, 5-0, in a second-round romp at Shaw Field.

“Every year I walk out here thinking we could maybe win the whole thing,” Wiese said. “We say, ‘Listen, this has to be our time.’ You have to believe this is our time. ... This is all familiar territory, but what we haven’t put together is that magical run of five games.”

Before approaching the second hurdle next Sunday at noon against Louisville -- the only team to beat the Hoyas this year -- the Big East champions (16-1-3) will reflect on forging a three-goal lead in less than 20 minutes and breezing to their largest margin of victory in the NCAA tournament.

Dylan Nealis, a right back who rules the flank with overlapping runs, scored twice. Derek Dodson had a goal and an assist in the first 13 minutes, and Foster McCune scored late.

There was also a first-half own goal as the Hoyas improved to 10-0-2 at home. Aside from the 2012 semifinals and final in Hoover, Ala., the Hoyas have not traveled for an NCAA tournament game in nine years. Yet they have been eliminated at home in each of their previous five appearances, including four times in the round of 16 or earlier.

As long as they continue advancing this year, they will remain in the District until the Final Four on Dec. 13 and 15 in Cary, N.C.

The Hoyas made quick work of the Panthers (10-8-2), who handed top-seeded Virginia its only defeat and, in their first NCAA tournament in 54 years, defeated Lehigh in Thursday’s first round.

It was a rough afternoon for Pitt’s Arie Ammann, a former D.C. United Academy goalkeeper whose father, Mike, manned the net for three MLS teams, including United. He did, though, stop a late penalty kick and made an extraordinary save on the rebound.

Even without injured attacker Ifunanyachi Achara, the Hoyas set the tone right away. They took lessons from a slow start against Providence in the Big East final the weekend before.

The first goal came after less than five minutes. From the top of the penalty area, Dodson tapped the ball ahead for the charging Nealis, who finished with a tight-angled one-timer from eight yards.

Dodson said, “He was like, ‘Doddy, I’m coming.’ ”

Eight minutes later, Dodson turned and placed an elegant 17-yard shot into the top far side for his team-best ninth goal.

In the 20th minute, Paul Rothrock’s free kick from near the end line caromed off Pittsburgh defender Arturo Ordoñez’s right arm for an own goal.

Nealis added his second goal — and fourth of the year — in the 66th minute. Spotting Ammann off his line after Georgetown’s Will Sands hit the near post, Nealis instinctively smacked a 30-yarder over the wayward goalkeeper.

“I took a quick look up and said, ‘Why not?' ” the senior defender said, “and went for it.”

He believes the last time he scored twice was playing as a forward for a Long Island club in the U.S. Development Academy while in high school.

Georgetown freshman Tomas Romero, who alternates as the starting goalkeeper with sophomore Giannis Nikopolidis, registered his seventh shutout. The team has blanked 12 opponents and conceded nine goals.

“If you’re going to try to win a national championship, you have to be good on both sides,” Wiese said. “Whether you win five-nothing or one-nothing, you need the nothing.”

VIRGINIA 2, CAMPBELL 0: In Charlottesville, Nathaniel Crofts assisted on Spencer Patton’s goal late in the first half and scored late in the second as the No. 1 Cavaliers (18-1-1) won their seventh straight and advanced to the round of 16.

“Being at home, being a top seed, coming off an ACC championship, this first game is always the one that tests your nerves the most,” Coach George Gelnovatch said.

The Cavaliers, in the NCAA tournament for a record 39th consecutive year, will host No. 16 St. John’s on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Averaging 2.8 goals, the Camels (17-3-2) managed two shots and two corner kicks. The Cavaliers, who have conceded seven goals all year, posted their 14th shutout.

WAKE FOREST 3, MARYLAND 0: In Winston-Salem, N.C., the defending champion Terrapins (11-8-2) fell behind in the 26th minute in losing to the No. 4 Demon Deacons (14-4-2). Maryland hadn’t allowed a goal in its previous seven NCAA tournament games.

VIRGINIA TECH 4, NEW HAMPSHIRE 1: Kristo Strickler scored two first-half goals as the No. 10 Hokies (10-5-3) overcame an early deficit to rout the visiting Wildcats (15-2-3) and set up a trip to No. 7 Stanford on Sunday night.

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