Ninety minutes and six goals were not enough to decide it. Neither were 20 hectic minutes of sudden-death extra time, leaving a penalty kick tiebreaker to settle it.
Both third-seeded Georgetown and No. 1 Virginia were perfect through six rounds, but after the Hoyas converted in the seventh, freshman goalkeeper Tomas Romero stopped Axel Gunnarsson’s bid for a 7-6 triumph following the 3-3 draw.
And with that tense sequence — almost-still moments after 110 minutes of bedlam — Georgetown won its first NCAA title and denied Virginia an eighth crown. It was the third NCAA team trophy in Georgetown history; men’s basketball and women’s cross-country claimed the others.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Coach Brian Wiese, whose team, in its only other Final Four, lost to Indiana in the 2012 final. “I am overjoyed for the players. I am overjoyed for our program. I am overjoyed for our university.”
The Hoyas joined Navy (in the 1960s), Howard (in the ’70s), Virginia (in the ’80s, ’90s and this century) and Maryland (three titles since 2005) as teams from the D.C. region to win the crown.
In the highest-scoring final since 1980, each side scored in the first 16 minutes and in the last 10 minutes of regulation. College soccer is often criticized for blandness and uniformity. On this night, anyway, that complaint was blown to bits.
“This thing became a different animal,” said Cavaliers Coach George Gelnovatch, who was bidding for a third title in 10 years. “It was two teams now going for it, punching each other.”
Georgetown has now been involved in two of the wildest matches in College Cup history: Seven years ago, the Hoyas defeated Maryland on penalty kicks in the semifinals after a 4-4 draw.
The Hoyas (20-1-3) finished the season on a 17-game unbeaten streak and stopped a 10-game winning run by the Cavaliers (21-2-1).
Virginia had won its two most recent titles in tiebreakers, both in Cary. But the Hoyas were flawless with their attempts.
In the seventh round, Aidan Rocha scored for Georgetown. Romero then blocked Gunnarsson’s try, unleashing his teammates from the center circle and the sideline and setting off celebrations in the stands.
In a shootout in the Big East semifinal, Romero said he “relied a lot on the scout. This time I stuck to my instinct. I feel like I should’ve saved one of the other ones [against Virginia]. I didn’t dwell on it. For some reason, something in my head thought, ‘Go to the opposite side’” of where he initially thought Gunnarsson would shoot.
“We made six,” Gelnovatch said. “What else can you ask for?”
As they did in Friday’s semifinal matches, the opportunities and the subsequent scoring began early. This game figured to take a while to get going; these were, after all, the top defensive teams in the country, having conceded a combined 21 goals in 46 games.
Instead, the match got off to a crackling start.
The Cavaliers went ahead in the 10th minute. They targeted their powerful striker, Daryl Dike. Georgetown’s Rio Hope-Gund won the aerial battle, but his header sailed into Joe Bell’s path for a 25-yard one-timer that caromed off defender Daniel Wu’s leg and past Romero.
The lead lasted six minutes, thanks to Virginia’s defensive confusion and Georgetown’s opportunism.
From the top of the penalty area, Zach Riviere lifted the ball deep into the box. Goalkeeper Colin Shutler, a first-team all-American, came off his line and, in anticipation of defender Bret Halsey making a play on it, stopped.
The ball came off Halsey’s hip and fell to Paul Rothrock for an easy finish.
Six minutes later, the Hoyas went ahead. Riviere served a long free kick into the penalty area. Virginia’s marking was poor. Hope-Gund’s no-look header set up his central defending partner, the freshman Wu, for a six-yard stab, the Cary native’s first collegiate goal.
The Cavaliers evened the score in the 58th on Daniel Steedman’s 15-yard shot to the far corner.
The Hoyas went back ahead in the 81st minute. A bad touch by Virginia reserve Aaron James allowed Ifunanyachi Achara to supply Derek Dodson in stride behind the defense for his 11th goal.
But in the 86th minute, Dike took advantage of a second opportunity in the six-yard box, smashing the ball into the roof of the net for his 10th of the year.
Romero made a fine save in extra time. Having won semifinal games just 48 hours earlier, players cramped up. Injuries forced Wiese to alter his choice of shooters in the tiebreaker. But like his team almost all season, they were perfect.
“You can’t take it away,” he said of finally winning the title. “We have it forever now, which is nice. Now you have an expectation to manage, and that’s what it is about.”
Upon committing to Georgetown, senior defender Dylan Nealis had said he would finish the work his brother, Jimmy, had started leading to the 2012 final.
“He almost ran out of time,” Wiese said, smiling. “I’m glad he figured it out.”
Said Nealis: “This win is not only for us, but for the rest of Georgetown men’s soccer [over the decades] and the whole university.”
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