Wildcats prevail over 18th ranked Pirates

Andrew Whalen

As it matures throughout the season, the men’s soccer team has posted an excellent 3-1-0 record in Big East play, and several players have more than impressed their coaches, teammates, and foes.

Coach Sullivan reiterated that his game plan changes from match to match. Players can expect unique lineups formatted to particular opponents. No matter their assignment, however, Coach Sullivan looks for “key players to perform efficiently, both technically and tactically.” Coach Sullivan also said that “game plans are different on the road than they are at home for a myriad of reasons.”

Thus, the team’s travel plans carried them to our nation’s capital last Friday, where they engaged the Georgetown Hoyas in an always heated intra-conference duel. Coach Sullivan noted, “There is no love between Georgetown and Villanova. Love does not come into the picture.”

The team played well against Georgetown despite the 2-0 defeat. There were many opportunities for players to score; unfortunately all missed the back of the net. Several excellent shots caromed off the posts and the opposing goalie made some good saves. Villanova found itself trailing at the end of the first half because an acrobatic Hoya converted an impromptu bicycle kick into a magical score.

Villanova returned in the second half with a renewed intensity. The team stayed with Coach Sullivan’s plan “at times,” but their “sloppiness in the midfield” failed to generate the much needed tally. Georgetown later added an insurance goal after a controversial out-of-bounds call.

Villanova continued their road trip to Seton Hall on Sunday, when they challenged the Pirates in a key Big East match up. The Pirates entered the game ranked 18th nationally and counted heavily on two “extremely talented forwards” to lift them over the Cats. Thankfully, Villanova keeper Jason Friel made “key saves in the second half that kept us afloat.”

Villanova’s heralded sophomore back four of Sleece, McNulty, Wells and Whiteside ensured all-comers were shut down. According to Sullivan, their play was “physical but not dirty” and enabled Villanova to push Seton Hall into overtime. Up to this point, Seton Hall had not lost a home game since 2002.

Before OT, Coach Sullivan adjusted his game strategy, as a tie away from home would have suited their interests quite well. Coach Sullivan told the team not to do anything rash, however, and should Seton Hall make a mistake, it was up to ‘Nova “to seize the day!”

Sullivan’s speech instantly registered with senior leaders Greg Winther and Charlie Rowan. Winther intercepted a throw from the Seton Hall goalie and beat a defender before passing to Rowan who buried the ball and ended the game.

On Wednesday, Villanova returned home to take on city rival La Salle. La Salle scored first due to “horrible central defense and a poor decision by the keeper,” said Coach Sullivan. “There is no way to sugar coat it.”

Despite the one goal deficit, Villanova would not succumb to adversity. In particular, burgeoning star Joe Taylor refused to be contained. With less than a minute to play, Taylor pulled a flashy move in the box which burned his defender. He then lofted a soft cross to teammate Mike DelGuercio who headed it in before celebrating in stylish fashion.

While this was a big moment for DelGuercio, being that this was his first game back from injury, he humbly said, “The cross was awesome, I was just there to put it in the goal.”

Two overtime periods failed to net the Wildcats the golden goal. This was not due to lack of chances, as Taylor ripped a direct kick that banged off the side post. When it was all over, though, La Salle left the field dejected, and Villanova breathed a sigh of relief with the tie.

Villanova now gears up for another league battle against newcomer South Florida, who is currently undefeated in the Big East. Captains Brett Stassfurth and Pat Gallagher are very pleased with “the results of the last five games” and look “to take down undefeated South Florida as we did West Virginia earlier in the year.” Should they win tomorrow, Villanova will enter into a three way tie for first place in the Big East.

Coach Sullivan is not too excited because the current standings matter little till the final game is played. Two or three crucial games do remain, but the team and coaches believe their tough schedule will ultimately side in their favor.