'Bigger Goals' on the Horizon, Georgetown Wins Fourth Straight Big East Title


WASHINGTON, D.C. — There was a time not too long ago a Big East tournament title brought the Georgetown men’s lacrosse team to tears.

Now, victories like Saturday’s 14-12 defeat of Villanova in the conference final are business as usual for the Hoyas — though still worthy of appreciation.

Top-seeded Georgetown (15-1) won its fourth consecutive Big East tournament and collected an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as Graham Bundy Jr. and TJ Haley both scored three times and fifth-year senior Owen McElroy made 17 saves before 2,433 at Cooper Field.

“It’s a true testament to the culture we have here, and it started with that class from 2018,” McElroy said. “Winning the first one was great; the second one was awesome. Every one keeps getting better, but at this point, we’re kind of used to it. It was a goal of ours since the beginning of the year to win this thing, but we kind of have bigger goals this year.”

Brett Baskin scored four goals, and Matt Campbell had three goals and two assists for the third-seeded Wildcats (9-6), who were denied their first Big East tournament title and first NCAA trip since 2018.

Entering the day, Villanova was the joker in the deck when it came to the NCAA tournament picture. Their only path to the postseason was a victory, while Georgetown was safely inside the field, which meant some borderline teams throughout the Division I landscape had interest in the Hoyas handling their business and not requiring an at-large berth.

The first 20 minutes assuaged just about any concerns on that front.

James Reilly won the opening faceoff and scored six seconds into the game. Georgetown pushed its lead to 5-1 by the end of the first quarter and 8-1 shortly thereafter.

“They played a great first quarter and we didn’t,” Villanova coach Mike Corrado said. “Against them, that’s what happens. All the sudden, it’s 5- or 6-1.”

Villanova got a pair of goals in the last minute of the first half to close within 8-3 but never created much anxiety for the Hoyas. Campbell’s third goal came with 11:59 remaining and brought the Wildcats within 13-9, but they were stymied for more than nine minutes, and Bundy’s bouncer with 5:20 restored a five-goal advantage.

Georgetown’s sloppiness — 16 turnovers, including four failed clears in the second half — ensured it wasn’t a work of art on a damp, dreary day. But when Villanova got within two in the final minute, the Hoyas ensured the Wildcats didn’t have the opportunity to narrow the gap any more.

“Just a hectic pace,” coach Kevin Warne said. “I felt like we played sometimes like there was a 10-second shot clock instead of 80. I was like, ‘Holy smokes, just relax.’ But sometimes, we have to play that way. The greatest part of this is, yes, we had success, but so many pieces that we can take away from this game that can help us down the road.”

It was the first time the host school won the Big East tournament, an event first held in 2012. And it left the Hoyas’ fifth-year seniors with an 8-0 career record in the conference tournament.

Georgetown also extended its winning streak to 11 as it heads into its fourth NCAA tournament in a row. The Hoyas are in line to earn a No. 2 or No. 3 seed when the selection committee releases the 18-team bracket Sunday night.

McElroy is one of several veterans who were part of all four championships, a run that seemed unthinkable when the Hoyas went into the 2018 event on the upswing simply because they made it that far. They’d gone 6-22 the previous two seasons and were 11 years removed from their last NCAA tournament trip.

The 2018 and 2019 defeats of Denver in the league final effectively put Georgetown’s program back on the map. Last year, the Hoyas built on another conference title by pummeling Syracuse in the first round, reaching the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007.

Postseason appearances are now the expectation for the Hoyas, and a deep run is plenty possible this month. Of course, Georgetown’s veterans still have a healthy appreciation of both the differences between the first time they hoisted the conference tournament trophy and Saturday’s celebration and the common sense of accomplishment.

“First time we won this, we were bawling together because we just couldn’t believe it,” defenseman Gibson Smith IV said. “Now, five years later, four championships later, it doesn’t get old. It’s special every single time.”


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