‘Cats claw past Delaware, stumble against USF

Michael Zipf

Following a five-game losing streak, the men’s soccer team returned to their winning fashion, capturing a 2-0 victory over Delaware (2-1-2) on Sept. 19. The victory increased the Wildcats’ record to 4-6-1 overall (0-5-0 Big East) and provided them with a stepping stone to overcome their recent struggles.

“We’ve been playing well,” said sophomore forward Joe Taylor. “The last few games, we haven’t been able to execute around the goal, but today we were more effective towards the upper third and we are able to finish better around the net.”

Red-shirt sophomore Dan DeMasters provided a great spark for the Wildcats, delivering his first goal of the season and an assist for the Wildcats. DeMasters, who suffered a season ending knee injury last year, enjoyed his most productive game since his comeback. His first contribution came in the 26th minute when he rocketed a shot past Delaware goalkeeper Taylor Thames to give Villanova a 1-0 lead.

With a 1-0 lead heading into the half, the Wildcats continued to mount offensive pressure. Early in the second half, the Wildcats capitalized on this offensive pressure when DeMasters connected with freshman Mike Seamon on a touch pass.

Seamon then fed junior Neil McNulty who completed the play, recording his first goal of the season to give the Wildcats a commanding 2-0 victory.

Defensively, the Wildcats played extremely well with junior goalkeeper Jason Friel, making three saves and recording his third shutout of the season.

“The defense has been strong this season,” Taylor said. “Heading into the season, many of the coaches felt the offense would be our strong point, but the defense has really led the way this season. John Wells and Matt Sleece have been really effective for us this season.”

In their Big East match-up against the University of Southern Florida (5-2-2, 3-0-2 Big East) this past Saturday, the Wildcats recognized that they were in store for a tough encounter. Prior to the season USF, along with Connecticut, was projected to capture the Big East regular season title. The Bulls who were first introduced to Big East play last year, enjoyed a very productive rookie season, winning the 2005 Big East Red Division, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament and earning a national ranking as high as No. 16.

However, the Wildcats rose to the occasion, playing a sound defensive game and forcing the Bulls to endure a competitive and highly-fought match. Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ efforts fell short as they suffered a 1-0 defeat, dropping their record to 4-6-1 overall and 0-5-0 in Big East play. Neither team was able to generate many scoring opportunities because of the slick playing conditions. However, USF was able to capitalize on one of their scoring opportunities when forwards Sammy Castellanos and Kris Radd worked on a creative give-and-go, connecting with Rodrigo Hidalgo, who blasted a shot past junior goalkeeper at the 32:57 mark of the first half. USF would maintain its 1-0 lead through the first half.

In the second half, USF continued to control the game; however, the Wildcats generated a scoring opportunity during the 87:00 mark of the second half. Sophomore Sean Lundbeck blasted a shot towards the empty side of the net, but a USF defender stepped in front of it to negate the goal and preserve the shutout.

As the team prepares for its game against Rutgers, it continues to remain focused on their goals of attacking offensively, finishing around the goal and playing sound defense.

“We’ve played a tough Big East schedule so far, but this next stretch of games should be a little easier,” Taylor said. “We just need to remain focused. Our goal is to win as many games as possible, while our ultimate goal is to make the playoffs.”