History repeats itself for men’s soccer team

Andrew Whalen

All good things must come to an end, but with two minutes remaining in last week’s Big East men’s soccer quarterfinal game against Georgetown, few saw Villanova’s playoff run ending when and how it did. As it happened, the Wildcats lost for the second straight year in a penalty kick shootout. The heartbreaking decision came after two scoreless overtimes, and those dreaded final two minutes of regulation when Georgetown managed to miraculously knot the game at two goals apiece. Because this was a win that slipped through Villanova’s fingers, Coach Sullivan said, “The best team didn’t win.”

Neither team scored in the first half. The Hoyas scored first in the second, but undaunted ‘Nova answered with two hard-fought goals of their own. For the second year in a row, a Villanova freshman notched a playoff goal. This year it was Joe Taylor, who willed the ball into the net while being swarmed by Hoya defenders. Less than two minutes later, at the 70-minute mark, Billy Whiteside tapped in a Greg Winther pass for the go-ahead goal. Ultimately, Villanova was unable to hold onto its lead as Georgetown’s two best players teamed for some late-game heroics that sent the match into overtime.

Villanova controlled the overtime periods, but one could sense its disappointment in having allowed Georgetown to get back in the game. The shootout was won by Georgetown on three virtually unsaveable shots. Regardless of how good the keeper Jason Friel has been, no team wants a pivotal game’s outcome to be decided by penalty shots. Losing to the same team two years in a row under similar circumstances can be extremely disheartening. Villanova’s squad is talented and young enough, however, that both losses can be avenged in the upcoming years.

The Georgetown loss is the last college game for four Villanova seniors though. Sullivan is saddened to see them go. Sullivan says captain and center midfielder Brett Stassfurth should continue playing at the next level. “Anything positive in the attack came from Stass,” said Sullivan. Sullivan described Stassfurth’s co-captain Pat Gallagher as a warrior all year who battled through multiple injuries. Both players will be sorely missed.

Sullivan also had kind words for seniors Charlie Rowan and Greg Winther. Sullivan said Rowan “played his best ball this year, scoring big goals for us.” Sullivan followed this compliment by admitting his goal against Syracuse was “one of the nicest I’ve ever seen in my years of college coaching.” Coach said Charlie Winther was the year’s biggest surprise. “He came into the year as a sub but secured a starting role at outside mid.”

The remaining underclass players will take some time off before resuming team training in late January. Expectations will be high with the entire starting defense returning, as well as national scoring threat Dan DeMasters coming back from an injury. Sullivan is looking for existing members of the team, like Chris Quinn and Craig Moscetti, to fill in for departing seniors. Assistant coach Jones joked that Moscetti has David Beckham’s and expects him to step it up next season. Sullivan will add to this mix an incoming freshman class of proven goal-scorers.

The next opportunity to see the team play will be in April during their non-traditional season. Villanova will play six games against yet-to-be determined teams of outstanding quality. If Georgetown is one of these teams, however, the match will not be termed “friendly.”