By Jack Belanger ’21
After coming from behind in the Big East Tournament Semifinals to beat St. John’s University 2-1, the Providence College Men’s Soccer Team was set to face off against the No. 3 team in the country, the Georgetown University Hoyas, for the Big East Title on Nov. 17 in Washington D.C. The two teams had already faced off earlier in the season when the Friars lost 1-2 after holding the Hoyas scoreless for the first 47 minutes.
Coming into the game on a six-game winning-streak, the Friars started hot out of the gate. Thirteen minutes into the first half, Tiago Mendoca ’20RS gave PC the first lead of the game with a shot from the left side of the box from a pass by Esben Wolf ’23. The Friars would go into halftime leading 1-0.
“We were able to stick to our game plan and play our way in the first half,” said head coach Craig Stewart. “In the second half, Georgetown increased their intensity and tempo.”
In a span of just under 19 minutes, the Hoyas would go from being down 0-1 to being up 2-1. They tied the game after a penalty kick by Dante Polvara in the 55th minute, then took the lead on a free kick from Jack Beer. Even though the Friars managed six shots-on-goal in the second half, the team could not cash in on their opportunities, losing by a final score of 1-3.
Luckily, thanks to a overall record of 14-6 and two wins over top 25 St. John’s, the Friars knew ahead of the game that their season was not going to be over regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game. The only question would be where the team would be placed in the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament, also known as the College Cup, bracket.
On Monday, the Friars were informed that they would host a first round round game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, who won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament. Coach Stewart and the rest of the team are excited to play their first game on campus.
“We had a good feeling that we were going to be in the bracket. We love playing here. It’s a great stadium with the crowd and the whole atmosphere.”
Even though the Friars have the home field advantage, Stewart wants to make sure his team stays focused on NJIT before looking ahead at a potential second-round game against Pennsylvania State University.
Stewart said, “They will be coming in with a no-fear type of mentality where they are going to be fighting for everything. The most important thing for us is to respect them as an opponent.”
Despite falling short of the conference title, Stewart believes their run to the finals gave the team valuable lessons they can carry into the national tournament thanks to two games against ranked opponents.
“Coming back against St. John’s showed us that we were capable of playing from behind,” said Stewart. “The disappointment of losing the Georgetown game is a feeling you want to bottle up and make sure we try to avoid that situation again.”
Despite not being selected for the tournament since 2016, there are still a few players from the team that made it all the way to the quarterfinals including All-Big East players Mendoca, Joao Serrano ‘20RS, and Danny Griffin ‘20. Stewart noted that postseason run in 2016 has motivated the seniors to strive to return to the tournament throughout their college careers. Now being leaders of the team, they have been the role models for the younger players. The experience of the senior class will be an advantage the Friars will have over other teams once the tournament begins.
The Friars’ game is set against NJIT is set for Thursday, November 22 at 7 p.m. on Chapey Field.