CARY, North Carolina — Once again, the Washington men’s soccer team needs to get past Georgetown to reach its goal.
Two years ago, they came up just short, losing a lead in the second half and falling 2-1 to the host Hoyas in the Elite Eight.
On Friday, the stakes are even higher, as No. 2 seed Washington (17-1-2) plays No. 3 seed Georgetown at 5:30 (PST) in the College Cup in the national semifinals. No. 4 seed Notre Dame (14-5-4) plays No. 8 Clemson (15-5-1) in the other semifinal.
“These guys step up to the occasion, so we’ll be ready,” said UW coach Jamie Clark, whose team is in the College Cup for the first time in program history.
Washington seemed ready in 2019, when as the No. 6 seed in the tournament and playing at No. 3 Georgetown, it took a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
The score stayed the same until the 72nd minute, when Georgetown scored on a free kick, then scored the game-winner four minutes later.
“We felt like we let one get away two years ago,” Clark said. “We had a moment to make it 2-0 — not that I remember (he joked). Then they came down and put one away about four minutes later.”
Said Georgetown coach Brian Wiese: “That is one of the hardest games I have ever been in as a coach to try to navigate through.”
But the Hoyas got through it, and went on to win a national title.
The winner Friday will be one win from a national title.
“It’s a great opportunity,” UW goalie Sam Fowler said of a rematch with Georgetown, “and honestly, so many guys on our team have matured since that game, including myself. The last game (against Georgetown) isn’t really on my mind, it’s the opportunity to do something great this time.”
While a rivalry might have started between the two teams, it is a rivalry characterized by respect. The two coaches are longtime friends, with Wiese having been an assistant coach at Stanford when Clark was playing there, then coaching under Clark’s father, Bobby, for 10 years before getting the Georgetown job.
“Brian is the best. He really is, and his success speaks for itself,” Clark said.
And Wiese on Clark: “It’s long overdue for him to be in the College Cup with the job he has done at Washington. We are looking forward to this game and I think it will be a great advertisement for college soccer with what his team is, who they are and how they play. It’s hard to root against Jamie Clark. He’s one of the fun guys who thinks (about) the game differently.”
The two friends are also extremely competitive, and each would love to send the other home early.
“What we always say, is earn one more week, one more week, and now there aren’t any more weeks so I guess we try to earn two more days,” Clark said,
Fowler was starting as a freshman when Georgetown beat UW in 2019, and since then he has solidified himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the country.
Clark said he has been great in big games, and Fowler said he is ready for anything, including penalty kicks if the score is tied after two overtimes.
“I am feeling pretty confident that we won’t need to go to penalty kicks, but if we do, I feel pretty confident in our guys to do well and put theirs away, but I definitely feel like I would have a chance to stop a few as well. … It’s something I feel is a strong suit for me.”