By Kyle Kandetzki - SPORTS EDITOR
After what some might have called a snub from the NCAA Tournament last year, Hofstra women’s soccer’s resume was too strong to turn away this time.
For the first time since winning the CAA in 2012, Simon Riddiough’s team will appear in the tourney (aka the Women’s College Cup) against Georgetown on Saturday at 1 p.m. The team grabbed an at-large bid, their first since 2010, after falling to eventual champion James Madison in the CAA semifinals.
Besides fighting a strong Hoyas squad, Hofstra will have to fight back from an emotional loss last week on their home pitch against the Dukes, the final home game for a host of seniors including CAA Player of the Year Leah Galton.
On paper, the teams seem to stack up evenly. Hofstra went 13-5-1, while Georgetown finished 11-5-3. In RPI rankings, Hofstra also finished better: At 21st spot, while the Hoyas were 37th. In NSCAA rankings, the final poll had the Pride garnering five votes while G’Town had none.
But Georgetown will be the host and possibly the favorite, thanks to a slightly stronger conference, the Big East. But even that opinion can be disproven, as the CAA will be represented by four teams in the tournament, while the Big East has just three (G’Town, St. John’s, Butler).
Georgetown’s resume has some notable decisions right from the get-go. They opened up their year at the JMU Invitational where they beat the Dukes 4-3, but then lost to William & Mary 3-0 (also an NCAA Tournament participant).
They hung around, but fell to #18 UConn 2-1, and faced the same result against #14 Virginia Tech two weeks later. Among other tournament participants, they lost 3-1 to the AAC’s Central Florida, then in conference they split games against teams that are also in the field of 64: a 3-1 win over St. John’s and a 1-0 loss to Butler.
So that puts the Hoyas at 2-5 against teams in the tourney, while they are also coming off of a loss in their own semifinals of their conference tournament, a penalty kick loss to Providence.
Where Georgetown makes an impression is their roster. They host six players with 4+ goals, led by Big East Midfielder of the Year Rachel Corboz, who put up 28 points on 10 goals and eight assists. As a team, the Hoyas posted very similar numbers to the Pride. They scored 42 times and allowed 23 goals, while Hofstra scored 41 and let in 22. Though, Georgetown has done it with somewhat better accuracy: Compiling a .148 shot percentage to Hofstra’s .106.
On Hofstra’s side, the names are well known to you by now. Leah Galton leads the charge with 11 goals, followed by seven from Jill Mulholland and five by Kristin Desmond. Then, the Pride has ten other goal scorers including the likes of All-CAA second-team choices Madeline Anderson and Jeannine Molleda. The Pride takes their shots in high volumes, but after 31 shots and no goals vs. JMU, execution will be key.
The goalie battle is just as even as the rest of the stats. Frederike Mehring has allowed one fewer goal than Georgetown’s starter Emma Newins, and in about sixty more minutes in net too. Newins has also struggled stopping shots, with a .686 save rate, while Mehring is at .720.
To add to the impressive seasons for both teams: The bad losses for either side are slim to none. All of Hofstra’s losses came to teams that are playing in the NCAA Tournament: #6 Penn State, #9 Rutgers, at-large choice UNCW, CAA Champ JMU and Patriot League champ Boston University (who came into their game against Hofstra 0-4-2, then went 11-1-1 the rest of the way).
For Georgetown, all of their losses came to NCAA Tournament participants up until Providence eliminated them from the Big East Tournament.
With all of these similarities between the two, what this game will come down to is experience and response. The Hoyas have five seniors, three grad students and four consecutive years of appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Hofstra’s senior class has the only players with tourney experience, but what they have in that class is huge. There are quintessential seniors at every section of the field that have led their team all year. Galton is one of the greatest the program has ever seen up front, Jeannine Molleda and Chloe Dale are key mids, while Mallory Ullrich is not only a great defensive presence, but a fantastic passer with six assists as well.
With semifinal exits from both of these teams in their conference tournaments, which team will respond better? The answer is the key to victory.