‘Cats best Hawks, slip up against Harvard

Michael Zipf

By Michael ZipfStaff Reporter

After enjoying a two-game home stint to start the season, the Villanova men’s soccer team embarked upon a difficult six game road stretch this past week. The Wildcats started off the challenging journey in grand fashion, earning a hard-fought 2-1 victory over cross-town rival St. Joe’s on Aug. 30.

Heading into the game, the Wildcats were well aware of the tough stretch ahead, recognizing that they needed a collective effort to have a successful road trip.

“Playing six straight games on the road is going to be tough,” said head coach Larry Sullivan. “We are going to need some people from the bench to step up and contribute.”

Both red-shirt sophomore Dan DeMasters and sophomore Dan McKenna answered Sullivan’s call, rising to the occasion to provide great sparks off the Wildcat bench. McKenna connected on the ‘Cats first goal at the 53:24 mark of the second half, after the two teams battled through a scoreless first half. McKenna received a great feed from junior forward Mike DelGuercio blasting a shot past St. Joe’s goal keeper Joe Bodnar.

“McKenna played well today, said Sullivan. “He made some solid contributions off the bench; that is what we needed.”

DeMasters, normally a starter who has been relegated to limited action this season as he still recovers from a torn ACL that forced him to miss the entire last season, became a major catalyst for the Wildcats’ victory. Demasters, who entered the game during the first overtime period, provided an instant spark, setting up freshman Victor Faustino’s game-winning goal at the 1:17 mark of the first overtime period. Demasters swiftly dribbled through the St. Joe’s defense, sending a short cross to Faustino, who one-timed it into the lower left corner.

“The minute I put Demasters in the game is when the game changed,” Sullivan said. “He just changes the level of our play.”

Although the Wildcats were able to connect on two goals and secure an important victory, the coaching staff, as well as the players, felt that they failed to capitalize on several of their opportunities.

“We should have had more goals,” Sullivan said. “We had a lot of opportunities; we just weren’t able to finish some of them. One minute we would make a great play and the next minute we would make a mistake. We could not find a consistency, although at times we played brilliant.”

One reason why the Wildcats had trouble finding a consistency was the playing field. “It was a big adjustment getting used to the fast playing field,” said Sullivan. “It took us a little while to get used to the artificial surface.”

Heading into their game against the Rhode Island Rams this past Saturday, the Wildcats stressed the importance of continuing to build upon their defensive play and attacking offensively. Posting a 0-0 tie, the Wildcats were able to accomplish one of their goals as a solid effort from the defensive backs. Excellent play from junior goalie Jason Friel also propelled the Wildcats to remain unbeaten. Both teams generated several scoring chances, but both backs were able to thwart any successful scoring chances. Villanova’s best chance occurred during the first overtime when freshman Mike Seamon collected a ball off a throw-in and sent a cross to the middle of box where sophomore forward Joe Taylor timed a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and over the net.

Although Rhode Island successfully mounted several scoring opportunities, Friel and the rest of the Villanova defense rose to the challenge. Friel recorded six saves, none bigger then his save against Rams forward Joe Spofford with one minute to play in the first half. Spofford broke free from the Villanova defense, creating a breakaway opportunity but was denied by Friel, who deflected Spofford’s blast with his right hand, knocking it over the edge line.

Overall, Sullivan was pleased with the team’s performance. “Defensively, we played extremely well,” he said. “We earned a point, and we will learn a lot from this.”

With an undefeated record of 3-0-1, the Wildcats looked to remain unbeaten as they faced Harvard University this past Sunday. Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ winning streak would come to a halt as the ‘Cats suffered their first defeat with a 3-1 loss to the Harvard Crimson. With the remnants of tropical storm Ernesto lingering, both teams faced wet, rainy and difficult playing conditions. Villanova recorded the game’s first goal when junior Mike DelGuerico connected on a ball from freshman Mike Seamon, lofting a shot over Harvard goaltender Adam Hahn.

However, the Wildcats would remain scoreless throughout the rest of the game as the Crimson were able to control the second half. With the score tied at 1-1 heading into the second half, the Crimson applied great pressure, leading to two second half goals by Kwaku Nyamekye and Mike Fucito. Although Villanova tried to mount a valiant comeback, Fucito’s goal at the 80th minute sealed the game for the Crimson and caused the Wildcats to suffer their first defeat of the season.