Men’s Soccer: ‘Nova splits pair against Big East adversaries

Michael Zipf

Heading into its Big East opener against Marquette, the men’s soccer team had great momentum, carrying a four-game shutout streak into the match. The Wildcats continued their stellar defensive performance and extended their shutout streak to five games by capturing a 1-0 victory over a persistent and determined Marquette team. The victory propelled the Wildcats’ record to 6-1-0 and 1-0 in the Big East.

The beginning of the first half featured a fierce Wildcat attack, with Villanova jumping out to an early 1-0 lead at the 15:16 mark. Co-captain Joe Taylor connected with sophomore forward Mike Seamon, who blasted a shot towards the lower right corner of the net past Golden Eagles’ goaltender, Matt Pyzdrowksi. Seamon’s sixth goal of the season gave the Wildcats early momentum, which has been critical in the Wildcats’ recent success.

“You always want to score first,” Head Coach Larry Sullivan said. “We knew against a young Marquette team we could open it up more.”

Last season, the Wildcats, who were plagued by injuries, inexperience and missed opportunities, often failed to capitalize on early scoring chances. However, this year’s squad, which features more seniors, seems to have changed its philosophy often expecting to score first.

“We have learned a lot from last season and we have definitely changed our psychological approach,” Sullivan said. “We come out playing hard and we want to score.”

Prior to the match, Seamon was selected as the Big East Offensive Player of the Week for his stellar performances in the Wildcats’ victories over St. Joe’s and Drexel. Seamon, who recorded two goal outings back-to-back in those victories, is tied for sixth in goals scored and tied for third in points in the Big East. His remarkable offensive season has helped propel the Wildcats into the national rankings. Villanova is ranked No. 23 in the nation, making its first appearance in the top 25 since 2004.

When asked why Seamon has been so effective on the offensive end, Sullivan responded, “Mike has been around the league one time and this year he is going to get the ball more. He’s seizing the moments.”

Although the Wildcats dominated the first half with a 6-4 shot advantage and only one Marquette shot on goal, the young Golden Eagles continued to claw away at the Wildcat lead. Marquette generated several good scoring opportunities in the second half, especially in the latter 15 minutes of the game. However, senior goal keeper Jason Friel and the rest of the Wildcats thwarted many of the Golden Eagles’ scoring chances. Friel made a critical save during the 79th minute of the match when he deflected Marquette’s Mehdi Eslami’s long blast over the cross bar to preserve the Wildcat victory. The victory extended the Wildcat shutout streak to five games and gave the Wildcats momentum going into their match against national powerhouse Notre Dame.

Heading into their match against the No. 3 Irish of Notre Dame, the Wildcats recognized the importance of the game. In front of an energized and raucous crowd that filled the Wildcat soccer complex, Villanova continued to demonstrate the same defensive prowess that allowed them to capture the Duke/Adidas Classic early in the season. However, the Fighting Irish’s high-octane offense placed a tremendous amount of pressure on the Wildcats’ defense, especially during the first few minutes of the match. Notre Dame generated five shots in the game’s first four minutes. Wildcat senior goalie Jason Friel continued his stellar play recording two critical saves in the first five minutes to preserve the scoreless game.

“One of the reasons our defense has been playing so well is because our goalkeeper has been outstanding,” Sullivan said. “Our defense has really held everything together.”

Despite this, Notre Dame possessed a 14-3 advantage in shots in the first half, connecting on numerous scoring opportunities.

Finally, in the second half, the Irish offensive attack broke through in the game’s 50th minute to snap the 0-0 tie. Freshman Jeb Brovsky scored off a feed from Joseph Lapira and Dave Donohue to give the Irish a 1-0 victory. Although the Wildcats generated a couple of scoring opportunities, they were unable to get any shots past Notre Dame goalie Chris Cahill, who made three saves in the shut-out victory. The Wildcat’s best scoring chance occurred in the 74th minutes when junior midfielder Joe Taylor rocketed a shot that sailed just over the cross bar.

The Wildcats’ defeat was their first loss in six games and ended their shutout streak, which had lasted over five and a half games. Although the Wildcats experienced a heartbreaking defeat, they were pleased with their performance.

“Honestly, we played better against Notre Dame than against Duke, and we lost,” Sullivan said. “We are still a work in progress … And when you play a top ranked team like Notre Dame, your mistakes and weaknesses get magnified.”