Men’s soccer endures a tough road stretch

Michael Zipf

By Michael ZipfStaff Reporter

Heading into the latter part of their six game road trip, the men’s soccer team faced two familiar Big East foes in Providence College and the University of Connecticut. Prior to the games, Villanova junior goalkeeper Jason Friel was named Player of the Week by Philadelphia Soccer Seven. Friel, who has been spectacular for the Wildcats this season, had posted shutouts in two of the Wildcats’ three prior outings. In addition, in the Sept. 1 game against Rhode Island, Friel recorded a new career high in saves with 13, which bolstered his goals against average to 0.80 this season.

However, this past Friday the Wildcats fell victim to the Providence Friars 3-1 in their Big East conference opener. The Friars connected on the first goal of the game after freshman midfielder Justin Kahle sent a cross into the box where junior forward Michale Narciso connected on a shot past Wildcat Friel just four minutes into the game. The Friars continued to apply pressure on the Wildcats and capitalized on their opportunity after they were awarded a penalty kick at the 29:52 mark of the first half. Alex Bury connected on the penalty kick, giving the Friars a two goal advantage heading into halftime.

The Wildcats opened up the second half strong, with sophomore Miles Harrison recording his first career goal to cut the deficit in half to 2-1 at the 60:44 mark.

“It was unexpected,” Harrison said. “I just sent a cross toward the net hoping one of our forwards would get a shot on goal, and it just glanced off the post and happened to go into the net. It was nice to contribute to the team, but it definitely would have been nicer had it come in a win.”

Unfortunately, Harrison’s lone goal was only one of a few bright spots for the ‘Cats that afternoon as the Friars continued to generate scoring opportunities. Kevin Neuman posted the Friars’ third goal of the game at the 64:53 mark to secure Providence’s victory.

Heading into their game with Connecticut, the Wildcats recognized the importance of this early Big East match up. A victory would have been a great springboard for a highly anticipated season. Prior to the season, the ‘Cats were selected to finish fourth in the conference, while Connecticut (along with South Florida) was projected to capture the season title. However, the ‘Cats realized that they needed to do a better job capitalizing on their opportunities in order to secure a victory over a formidable opponent like Connecticut.

“Coach stressed the importance of finishing and continuing to attack,” Harrison said. “All season we have been able to generate scoring opportunities; now we just need to continue to work on finishing them.”

Villanova executed early, connecting on the game’s first goal after junior forward Farris Fakhoury fired a shot past Husky goalie Matt Sangeloty at the 16:30 mark of the first half. Fakhour’s second goal of the season helped propel the Wildcats to a 1-0 lead at the end of the first half.

During the beginning of the second half, Villanova mounted several opportunities to extend its lead, however, they were unable to capitalize on them. Junior Mike Del Guercio ricocheted a shot off the cross bar in the early stages of the second half, while freshman Mike Seamon assisted on four of the ‘Cats six shots on goal. UConn was finally able to break their scoring draught at 79:12 mark of the second half when O’Brian White connected on his second goal of the season to tie the score at one. Four minutes later, at the 83:00 mark a questionable penalty kick was awarded to Huskies. The Huskies were able to capitalize on this pivotal play with Karl Schilling blasting a shot past Wildcat goalkeeper Jason Friel to capture its first lead of the game. Although shocked by the change in momentum, the team nevertheless continued to fight, trying to claw back and force an overtime.

“We didn’t quit. We kept on fighting, we got a few chances towards the end,” said Harrison.

Unfortunately, the ‘Cats valiant effort for a comeback would fall short and they ended with a heart-breaking 2-1 loss.

The Wildcats return home this week for their Big East home opener as they face Georgetown tomorrow at the Villanova Soccer Complex.