Men’s Soccer: Own no! ‘Nova falls 1-0 in OT

Michael Zipf

After earning the No. 23 ranking in the national polls and the No. 1 position in the Big East Red Division, the men’s soccer team recently experienced a difficult stretch, failing to register a victory or a goal in its last four matchups. The string of losses follows a period in which the Wildcats secured victories in six of their last seven matchups. However, a tough schedule that featured No. 15 University of South Florida, perennial ACC powerhouse Maryland and two formidable Big East opponents in St. John’s and DePaul, along with unfortunate breaks, plagued the Wildcats during this current losing streak.

Heading into their matchup against No. 15-ranked University of South Florida, the Wildcats were hoping to capture their second victory over a Top 15 team this season. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats stunned then-No. 1 Duke at the Duke Adidas Classic and narrowly pulled off an upset against No. 3 Notre Dame in a matchup at the West Campus Soccer Complex. Throughout the season, the Wildcats’ stalwart defense has played a critical role in the team’s success, shutting down and limiting high-octane offenses such as Duke, Notre Dame and N.C. State. However, for the first time this season, the Wildcats’ defense faltered, surrendering three goals to an extremely energized and dominant USF offense.

The early moments of the match featured intense and physical play, with both teams trying to establish offensive momentum. The Bulls’ struck first during the 21st minute of the match when Bernardo Anor connected off a feed from senior Simon Schoendorf. USF continued to apply pressure on the Wildcats defense throughout the first half. Two minutes after Anor’s goal, Schoendorf recorded his fifth goal of the season, rocketing a shot past Wildcat keeper Jason Friel off a free kick to give the Bulls a 2-0 lead.

Although somewhat dazed and startled by their slow start, the Wildcats opened up the second half hoping to rejuvenate their offense and mend a defense that had faced continual pressure all night. The Wildcats had an opportunity when Anor was sent off the field following his second yellow card of the night; however, Villanova was unable to capitalize on the man advantage. In total, the Wildcats only registered two shots on goal in the 3-0 loss.

Hoping to rebound against the Maryland Terrapins, the Wildcats ran into an energized and spirited Maryland team backed by a raucous crowd of 1,603 at College Park. As in their previous matchup against USF, the Wildcats’ defense was under fire early and often. In total, the Wildcats were outshot 20-6, including 12-4 in the first half. Although Maryland dominated the entire 90 minutes of the match, the Wildcats almost struck first. Senior Mike Del Guercio redirected a cross that was sent inside the box during the first minute of the match, but his shot hit the post. Del Guercio nearly eliminated Maryland’s early 1-0 lead when he ripped a shot that hit the cross bar during the 32nd minute of the match. During the second half of the match, the Terps continued to expand on their lead when freshman Rodney Wallace recorded his second goal of the match at the 51st minute of the match. Maryland added two more goals to capture a commanding 4-0 victory. The blowout marked the first time that Villanova allowed more than three goals in a game.

Coming off a tough road stint, the Wildcats returned to the West Campus Soccer Complex to face a formidable DePaul team in an important Big East matchup. The game featured an intense defensive battle with neither team allowing a goal during regulation. Both teams had several opportunities to break the scoreless affair, but neither side was able to capitalize on chances during the regulation period. Friel recorded two critical saves during the first half that prevented DePaul from capturing an early lead. Villanova’s best scoring opportunity occurred during the 40th minute when junior co-captain Joe Taylor sent a feed to freshman Sean Mergethal in the box, but Mergethal’s shot ricocheted off the crossbar. The turning point of the game occurred during the overtime period after the teams ended regulation tied 0-0. As Villanova attempted to clear a DePaul cross, the ball hit the back of a Villanova defender and caromed over Friel’s head into the upper left corner of the net. The crushing defeat completed a difficult week for the previously red-hot Wildcats and dropped the team’s record to 9-6 overall and 4-4 in Big East action. Villanova will travel to Cincinnati to play the Bearcats on Saturday.