‘Nova stumbles en route to playoffs

Michael Zipf

Heading into their match against DePaul on Sept. 30, the Villanova men’s soccer team recognized the importance of the game as they looked to mount a surge towards the Big East Playoffs. Prior to the match, the Wildcats posted an overall record of 6-6-1 and a Big East record of 2-5-0. Through a lot of heart and determination the Wildcats were able to secure a 2-1 overtime victory. Junior Mike Del Guercio led the way, notching his second goal in consecutive games to lift Villanova over DePaul during the 97th minute of the game.

“We didn’t play as pretty or as effectively as we had in our previous games this year, but we showed a lot of desire and sometimes you just have to win ugly,” said sophomore midfielder Miles Harrison.

As a result of the team’s grittiness and determination, the Wildcats were able to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit to win their second straight conference game, allowing them to get back into the race for the Big East playoffs.

Although the Wildcats were outshot 16-10 for the game and 10-5 in the second half, they battled throughout the match, generating several scoring opportunities. In the 65th minute of the second half, junior Farris Fakhoury was able to capitalize on one of these opportunities when he connected on his third goal of the season, knotting the game at 1-1. The ‘Cats continued to mount pressure throughout the overtime, and they finally put the Blue Demons away with Del Guercio’s one-timer off a free kick in the seventh minute of the overtime period.

Looking to continue to rise in the Big East Standings, the Wildcats searched for an important victory over the Syracuse Orange. The two teams battled on Oct. 7 with the Wildcats coming up empty-handed in the search for their third consecutive Big East victory, after having beaten DePaul and Rutgers in their previous match-ups. The game would feature a great defensive battle, as the damp and slippery field conditions prevented both offenses from mounting good attacks. The first good scoring opportunity occurred at the 28 minute mark of the first half, when the Orange used some deft passing inside the Villanova box to record the game’s first and only goal on a right-footed blast by forward Spencer Schomaker.

“We played hard, we just made that one mistake, and it cost us the game,” Harrison said. “We had some opportunities; we just weren’t able to finish them.”

The Wildcats would mount their own counterattack, and appear to tie the game during the 75th minute of the match. Sophomore forward Joe Taylor dribbled inside the Orange’s defensive zone and then fed junior forward Mike DelGuercio, who sent a low blast that Syracuse goalkeeper Robert Cavicchia initially stopped but then bobbled. Villanova’s Billy Whiteside then knocked the ball loose and collected the rebound, appearing to tie the game at 1-1. However, the officials ruled that Cavicchia had possession, thus negating the goal. The Wildcats would provide one last surge when Dan DeMasters’ header sailed just wide of the net at the 88 minute mark of the match.

After suffering a heartbreaking defeat against Syracuse, the Wildcats looked to rebound when they faced the University of Louisville this past Saturday. For the first half of the match both teams responded well, playing competitively and ending the half in a scoreless tie. However, the second half of the match featured Louisville mounting a strong offensive attack that the Wildcats were unable to handle.

The Cardinals opened up the first half with three goals in a four minute span. Louisville’s first of three goals occurred when David Guzman was able to convert on a penalty kick awarded to the Cardinals 34 seconds into the second half. After the penalty kick, Louisville continued to apply great offensive pressure and play with a lot of energy. Forward Frank Jonke recorded back-to -back goals in a span of two minutes. All of sudden they just exploded for three goals.

“At halftime, we talked about continuing to play the same way and just keep applying pressure,” said Joe Taylor. “After the penalty kick, we seemed deflated and we got down three goals real quickly. After the first two goals, we went all out on the offensive end trying to get back into game because we realized the importance of the match; however that left some gaps in the defensive end.”

Stunned and shocked by Louisville’s outburst, the Wildcats tried to regroup, expending a lot of effort to mount some offensive pressure. However, Louisville took advantage of this, adding two more goals to record a 5-0 victory.

As the team prepares for its final two games of the season against St. John’s and Cincinnati, they hope to finish the year on a high note with wins. With the two victories, the ‘Cats could potentially sneak into the Big East Playoffs where they could be dangerous.

“Coming into the season we had high expectations,” said Taylor. “We have a talented team we just haven’t been able to put everything together this season. It’s frustrating and disappointing because overall we underachieved.”