Season of firsts for Wenger, Lady Hoyas

By on December 7, 2016

After winning Big East title, GU suffers heartbreaker in NCAAs

Warwick grad Liz Wenger (left), a Georgetown junior center back, outraces  Virginia’s  Veronica  Latsko  to  the  ball.  Wenger  played  a key role in helping the Lady Hoyas’ defense record a single-season program record 17 shutouts this season. Photo courtesy of Georgetown Sports Information

Warwick grad Liz Wenger (left), a Georgetown junior center back, outraces Virginia’s Veronica Latsko to the ball. Wenger played a key role in helping the Lady Hoyas’ defense record a single-season program record 17 shutouts this season. Photo courtesy of Georgetown Sports Information

Multiple times, the Georgetown University women had gotten close.

But the Big East Tournament title had proven elusive for the Lady Hoyas’ soccer team in 2012 and again in 2014, twice losing in the finals.

Not this time, however.

On Nov. 6, Liz Wenger, a 2014 Warwick grad, and her Georgetown teammates blanked Marquette 2-0 at Shaw Field in Washington, D.C. and their first-ever Big East crown was finally in the books.

“That was amazing,” said Wenger, a center back. “To finally win it with this team, it was just icing on the cake from all the work we’d already done in the season.”

Yet, there was more work to be done.

And march on is what the Lady Hoyas did … all the way to their first-ever Final Four of the 2016 Women’s College Cup in San Jose, Calif.

Unfortunately, their dream of bringing home an NCAA championship fell just two wins short, as the Lady Hoyas — seeded No. 2 in their Region — suffered a hard-fought 1-0 loss to USC.

Reached by telephone on Tuesday, the sting of that loss was still fresh for Wenger.

“It was pretty upsetting to lose when we did,” she said, “but also impressive that we made it that far.”

A junior for the Lady Hoyas, she was part of the Lady Hoya squads that bowed to Virginia Tech in the NCAA’s second round in 2014, then fell to Hofstra last year in opening-round play.

Obviously, Wenger and Co. took a big step forward this fall.

“We’ve always been good, the program has steadily been getting better,” she said, “but in my four years, I didn’t think we would get to the point where we’d be in the Final Four. So to have a team this year that worked hard for each other … it was a complete team, probably the most complete soccer team I’ve played on ever where everyone — at times when we needed them — was able to step up and have a big game … It was incredible.”

In the end, the Georgetown women finished with a 20-3-3 overall record, setting single-season records for wins, shutouts (17) and goals scored (61).

As Wenger noted, the first indication that the Lady Hoyas could have the makings of a special season came at the end of a grueling nine-game non-conference schedule, which started back in August. It was all part of a master plan devised by Georgetown’s 13th-year head coach Dave Nolan, who has been on staff for 18 years.

“(Coach Nolan) put together a really, really tough schedule,” Wenger said, “and he started off the season saying if we get through non-conference having won six of those nine games, we’ll be in a good position for post-season already.”

As things turned out, the Lady Hoyas won all but one, losing only to No. 5/1 Stanford by a 3-0 score.

“We started off not-ranked at all,” Wenger recalled. “We quickly made it into the teens and then I think when we got into conference play, we were in the top 10.”

And they never looked back. Although they tied Providence and St. John’s, along with losing 4-1 to DePaul in the regular season, they were still No. 7 in the country heading into the Big East Tournament.

Wenger, who started 24 games for GU, even chipped in with a couple of assists along the way.

“My first offensive points,” she laughed.

The real focus, though, of Wenger and her backfield colleagues — graduate student Marina Paul (coming back from two ACL injuries), junior Drew Topor and GS Corey Delaney — was keeping the ball out of the net.

They did their jobs well, combining with keeper Arielle Schechtman to yield just one goal in three Big East Tourney games and limiting Marquette to one shot in Georgetown’s 2-0 win in the finals.

“I think the mindset going in was one game at a time,” Wenger said. “We knew we were good, but there have been many teams in Georgetown’s history that had made it to the finals of the tournament or the semi-finals, and by some fluke or they just weren’t on that day, they lost. So I think the general feeling of the team was, ‘Take care of business now and we’ll see what comes tomorrow.’”

That whitewashing of Marquette was the first of five straight shutouts posted by Georgetown’s D, as the Lady Hoyas combined to outscore St. Francis (2-0), Rutgers (2-0), Virginia (2-0), and Santa Clara (1-0) by a combined 7-0 while advancing all the way to the Final Four.

“That was one of the things this year — at least those four girls that started on the back line — our focus was shutout,” said Wenger, who is studying a double major in marketing and management.

Through 59 minutes against USC, that objective was still within reach in a scoreless duel. But then Katie Johnson scored for the Lady Trojans at 59:13 to make it 1-0.

Despite building the edge in both shots (9-6) and corners (5-4), and getting opportunities from Rachel Corboz and Crystal Thomas in the final minutes, the Lady Hoyas were unable to get the equalizer.

“We had a lot of action in the box,” Wenger said. “Our set pieces seemed to be on fire, but we just couldn’t find the frame of goal on any of the shots.”

In time, the Georgetown women will no doubt reflect on all they accomplished this season, including that first-ever Big East Tournament championship, but right now, it’s too soon.

“I am not sure we’re going to be able to look at it that positively for another couple of days,” Wenger said, “but yes, we’ll get there.”

 

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