Homecoming not so sweet for ‘Cats

Michael Zipf

Finally arriving home after a six-game road trip, the men’s soccer team looked to end their three-game losing streak. Last Friday, the Wildcats faced Big East rival Georgetown in a thrilling defensive match-up. However, the Wildcats efforts resulted in a fourth straight defeat, as they fell to the Hoyas 1-0. During their previous two match-ups, the Hoyas were the culprits who ended Villanova’s season, eliminating them from the Big East Tournament. On both occasions, the teams faced difficult playing conditions, as the field was soaked from morning rain.

Nevertheless, both teams generated scoring chances in the first half. With nine minutes left in the first half, ‘Nova’s Dan DeMasters dribbled through the Hoyas’ defense, blasting a shot that sailed over the cross bar. Meanwhile, Georgetown’s best opportunity of the first half came when forward Richard Frank’s free kick hit the post. The first half ended in a scoreless tie as both defenses rose to the occasion and played very effectively.

“Defensively we played well,” sophomore midfielder Miles Harrison said. “Our back line and goal keeping have been great for us.”

Heading into the second period, the ‘Cats looked to mount an offensive attack and build on their 7-5 shot advantage over the Hoyas. The Wildcats responded effectively in the second half dominating, much of the play and gaining a 17-5 shot advantage. Unfortunately, one mistake at the 87:06 mark of the second half cost the Wildcats the game. Georgetown forward Ricky Schramm collected a throw-in, beating Wildcat goalkeeper Jason Friel to give Georgetown the 1-0 victory.

Although the Wildcats endured a heart-breaking defeat, Villanova Head Coach Larry Sullivan was pleased with his team’s performance. When characterizing his team’s play, Sullivan used one word: dominating.

“Unfortunately, we made one mistake and it cost us the game,” he said. “We are a young team with a very difficult schedule and as a result, there is no room for mistakes. It is like in baseball, every time we go out there, we are facing the other team’s ace. But overall, I felt like we controlled most of the game and felt that we should have come away victorious.”

Although moral victories never supplant actual victories, the Wildcats were able to take several positives from this defeat. Offensively, they dominated the game, out-shooting the Hoyas 24-10, and defensively, they were able to shutout a good Georgetown team for 87 minutes.

On Sunday, the Wildcats tried to rebound against the Seton Hall Pirates. The first half of the game was a defensive struggle, since neither team was able to generate many scoring opportunities. However, in the second half, Villanova seemed to capture a 1-0 lead when freshman midfielder Phil Dillon connected on a shot off feeds from sophomore forward Joe Taylor and DeMasters. However, a disputed call by the officials signaled that the Wildcats were offsides, negating the goal.

After the disputable call, the momentum of the game changed. Seton Hall forward Eliseo Gludfredi was granted a penalty kick after the referee ruled that he had been dragged down in the penalty box as he attempted to split two Wildcat defensemen. Seton Hall was able to capitalize on this opportunity as Glusfredi blasted a shot past junior goalie Jason Friel.

“Both the offsides call and the penalty kick were big plays,” said Harrison. “They definitely changed the momentum of the game.”

“As a young team we became a little deflated,” said Sullivan. “Seasoned players overcome that and we are still in the process of becoming a veteran team, but we continued to fight hard even after those two plays.”

At the 82:52 mark of the second half, the Pirates secured the win when John Lewandowksi lofted a shot outside the box over Friel to give Seton Hall the 2-0 win. The defeat marked the ‘Cats fifth straight loss, three of which came on their road trip to New England.

“We played well in New England,” said Sullivan. “Providence, UConn and Harvard are very tough and ready teams. We are just going through a segment of evolving and growing as team. If you’re not growing, you’re shrinking, and I think that we are definitely growing. As the team grows, they will learn to handle the pressure and to be patient. I think it is critical for them to be patient and stick together, to overcome these growing pains and get pass this difficult stretch.”

Although the Wildcats have recently experienced some frustration and are enduring a five-game losing streak, no one questions the talent or heart and desire of this team.

“This is the most talented team ,one through 11, that I have coached,” said Sullivan. “They also have desire. You can see it in their eyes and actions – they all want it.”

As the team heads into its game against Delaware, no major adjustments are in store. However, the team continues to focus on its goals as they try to overcome itsrecent struggles to get a win.