Georgetown University Head Women's Soccer Coach Dave Nolan is in his ninth season at the helm of the Hoya program and sat down for a question and answer session with GUHoyas.com.
GUHoyas: Georgetown has had a tremendous run of success in the last five years. Can you talk about a bit about the Georgetown women's soccer program and where it is now?
Nolan: "All good athletic teams are based on the quality of their athlete's, and it is quite simple really, great players make great programs. The reputation of the University has always attracted strong students but in the world of athletics, you need to have a great program in order to attract great players. It's very difficult to become a strong program unless you can find great players willing and excited to build something special with you. We were lucky in that while we have had success bringing some very good players to the Hilltop it was Ingrid Wells' arrival and success in 2007 that probably caused other top players to look at us more seriously.
"A fairytale run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament in 2010 has raised the bar and expectations even higher. Certainly we now attract some of the top players in the country but our competition for those players now is so tough. There are so many great schools with great soccer traditions.
In essence we are now a top team in the BIG EAST Conference and a team capable of putting a good run together in the NCAA tournament."
GUHoyas: The Hoyas have been to two NCAA Tournaments and last year advanced to the BIG EAST Tournament semifinals for the second time. What has that type of success meant?
Nolan: "The bread and butter for any college program is how they do in their conference and we are no different. Every year we set out to win the BIG EAST Tournament, and it's certainly a tall order with such strong powers in the league, including Notre Dame, Marquette, UConn to name a few, but that's the goal. However, success in this league typically leads you to the NCAA Tournament also and our girls love playing in the BIG EAST and the opportunities that present themselves as a result.
"The more success you have the better it is for the program in terms of recruits, teams wanting to play you and the chance to promote our players for national team recognition."
GUHoyas: You've been on the sideline for a number of big wins. What did the win at Notre Dame mean to you and the team last year?
Nolan: "The road to the Big East Championship always runs through Notre Dame. Last year, we went into the home of the defending National Champion and beat them 3-2 in front of their fans. It was a great feeling because I have been on the end of a couple of hammerings in South Bend in the past and I know our alums in particular appreciated that result. To be fair though, we had tied them in 2010 at home and lost a tight game in South Bend the previous year, so it was no shock result, certainly not in my mind."
GUHoyas: Last season ended with a tough BIG EAST Tournament loss and without an NCAA Tournament berth. How tough was that for the team and how do you think it can help the younger players down the road?
Nolan: "I was so proud of the team last year, I thought it was our best team ever, they played great attacking soccer, had a wonderful attitude and had to battle major injuries all year. (We lost three of our top recruits before they even arrived and then losing Kailey Blain to an ACL early in the year really hurt us.) The team deserved a better ending to the season. At halftime in the BIG EAST Tournament, we walked off the field tied 1-1 with West Virginia and were really taking it to them. Then we lost Gabby Miller at the back for us and the game changed, and all credit to West Virginia for seizing the opportunity though.
"The lack of an NCAA bid still has me scratching my head, I didn't understand it then and still don't. But I do know that we were definitely one of the top 64 teams in the country and I told the girls we cannot measure ourselves as a success or failure based on what a group of people in a room believed. We had a great season in 2011, broke all kinds of records, played wonderful entertaining enjoyable soccer and finished knowing that we did absolutely everything we could do and that's important to us."
GUHoyas: This will be the first time the Hoyas take the field this year without some familiar names (Wells, D'Ambrisi, Baker, Trujillo, Miller) in the lineup. What did those players mean to the program?
Nolan: "Every one of those girls had outstanding careers here and in particular, wonderful senior seasons. All four gained BIG EAST, regional and national accolades and they will definitely be big shoes to fill. However it's the nature of college sports, as players move on, younger players move in and we are no different. It will be very exciting to see how this team takes shape."
GUHoyas: Playing in the BIG EAST has always been a challenge, but it seems to get more challenging every year. What is it like playing this league today?
Nolan: "There are no easy games in our conference. On any given day, anybody can beat anybody. That's why you have to admire teams like Notre Dame and Marquette who stay at the top. That's the goal for us now, to be a consistent force competing for BIG EAST Championships every year."
GUHoyas: Given the success of recent players and the team, and the opportunity to play in the BIG EAST, what is it like recruiting now?
Nolan: "I stress three things to all our recruits - Georgetown University offers a top notch education, the opportunity to play in a great soccer conference with and against great players and lastly, the chance to spend four years on a scenic campus, in a beautiful part of one of the most exciting cities in the world.
"Our recent success means we now get in the door with some great recruits, but our competition for those student-athletes is so tough also. That's why it is important we continue to build on this momentum."
GUHoyas: There have been some major renovations to North Kehoe Field this year. Can you talk a bit about that?
Nolan: "The playing surface on North Kehoe Field has always been very good, but thanks to a generous donation from a program supporter we were able to upgrade our soccer facility to one of the best in the league. This can only help us in recruiting, but also gives our girls a great venue that they are very excited to play in. It also gives our fans a greater level of comfort to come watch us play."
GUHoyas: Entering this year, you are fielding a fairly young team. What do you see in this team and can you talk about your excitement for the season.
Nolan: "We saw in the spring season the potential of this year's team, going 4-1 with our only loss to a veteran Penn State team tipped by so many for the Final Four this year. It gave the players confidence that they could still win games and score goals despite the graduation of such a strong class, this was very important. Throw in some talented freshmen and a good preseason and we are all excited about the 2012 season."