Wildcats bounced from post season

Michael Zipf

After being defeated by the St. John’s Red Storm and the Cincinnati Bearcats, the men’s soccer team’s season came to a halt. Needing two victories in their final two games to reach their quest of qualifying for the Big East Tournament, the Wildcats fell short The loss to St. John’s this past Wednesday eliminated any chance of qualifying for the tournament. The first half of the game featured a great defensive match-up with neither team generating any great scoring opportunities.

Villanova attempted only two shots during the first period, the first coming off a long range attempt by junior midfielder Neil McNulty. St. John’s failed to mount any real offensive pressure and register a shot during the first half.

“We played pretty well during the first half,” Miles Harrison said. “The teams were about even, and we just wanted to continue to play well defensively and try to mount some offensive pressure.”

The second half featured a change in the game’s make-up as both teams were able to generate several scoring opportunities. With less then three minutes into the half, St. John’s Ryan Soroka and Danny Dragoi generated a golden scoring opportunity with Soroka rocking a 25-yard blast off the right post bar. The shot was cleared by the Wildcats goalkeeper after Dragoi committed a foul on his attempt to gather the rebound.

During the 63rd minute of the match, St. John’s continued to apply the offensive pressure, almost connecting on two scoring opportunities with Mikchael Luk’s shot off a corner kick sailing high over the net. The Villanova defense continued to play effectively, thwarting many of St. John’s opportunities. Junior defenseman John Wells recorded an important block off a shot from St. John’s forward Jara Habib during the 66th minute.

Unfortunately, in the 84th minute the Wildcats were unable to stop St. John’s offensive attack, surrendering the game’s first goal. Luk was able to break through the Villanova defense and connected a throw-in by Dragoli, giving St. John’s the 1-0 lead.

“Scoring the first goal has been a probably for us this season,” Harrison said. “When we have been able to get the lead early and connect on that first goal we have been effective, but today we fell behind and gave up that first goal. We continued to fight and scramble but just couldn’t connect on some of our opportunities.”

Villanova tried to mount a counterattack with forward Joe Taylor sending a blast from the top of the box. Freshman and Wildcats’ leading scorer Mike Seamon collected the rebound, but was unable to get a shot passed St. John’s goalie Jason Landers. The Red Storm would finally end the game and the Wildcats’ season away when Soroka sent a throw-in to freshman forward Tadeu Terra, who beat Friel with a low shot near the post to record his third goal of the season.

Heading into their game last Saturday against Cincinnati, the team was motivated to end the season on a winning note. Unfortunately, a 2-1 overtime loss ended the season sourly.

“We need to keep our heads up as we look towards next season, but overall this season has been disappointing and frustrating,” Harrison said. “We had high expectations heading into the season and for whatever reason we haven’t been able to fulfill them.”

The Wildcats got off to a slow start, allowing the Bearcats to generate five shots before they recorded their first. However, once again the Villanova defense was up to the challenge. This time senior goalkeeper John Ward led the way for the ‘Cats by recording six saves and holding the Bearcats scoreless in the first half, despite being out-shot 9-2.

The Wildcats broke the scoreless tie when sophomore Joe Taylor lofted a picturesque 32-yard shot off a feed from Harrison over Bearcat goalkeeper Mike Vessells, giving Villanova its first goal in three games. However, the Cincinnati Bearcats evened the match just minutes later when Kwame Sarkodie collected a rebound off a corner kick and sent a touch pass to fellow forward Brad Simpson. Simpson found Kieron Gradwell, who deflected the ball past Ward at the 62:05 mark. In the last 28 minutes of regulation, neither team could end the tie, forcing an overtime period.

In overtime, it appeared as though the teams would face a second overtime. However, the Bearcats took advantage of a unique play. A long ball was sent toward the Villanova goal by Sarkodie and as Villanova goalkeeper Ward ran to wrap up the ball, he and Anaba collided, causing the ball to come loose. Anaba finally collected the ball and pushed it into empty net to give Cincinnati a 2-1 victory.

Although the team failed to fulfill the high expectations they had before the start of the season, there were several positives they were able to draw upon. Mike Seamon became the third freshman in a row to lead the Wildcats in scoring, after sophomore Joe Taylor led the team the previous season and red-shirt sophomore Dan Demasters two seasons ago. In addition, the team enjoyed an extremely good start, winning its first three games of the season.

As the team looks towards next season, it is continuing to focus on the same goals they had this season, which are qualifying for the Big East Tournament and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Altogether, this year’s Wildcats graduate only one senior and return all starters. As a result, the new senior-laden team seems poised to be a very competitive team next season.