Men’s record helps ‘Cats slide into first tourney spot in 6 years

Dan Barone

The Villanova men’s soccer squad slipped into the Big East tournament for the first time in six years despite a 2-0 defeat at the hands of No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend last Friday.

The team benefited from the failures of Boston College and Georgetown and was able to hold onto the No. 8 seed for Big East postseason play.

With the good news comes a piece of bad news, however. The ‘Cats will be taking on top-seeded St. John’s, who dominated them in an earlier match this season. The Red Storm’s national ranking improved to No. 4 this week on the strength of its 13-4-1 record.

Villanova and Notre Dame opened last week’s contest with legitimate scoring opportunities early, but neither could connect. ‘Nova’s best opportunity occurred when Felix Vincent blasted an open shot from 18 yards out that barely inched over the crossbar.

The second half was more of the same spirited play, but the Fighting Irish connected twice, with both goals set up by Ian Etherington. They scored in the 53rd and 85th minutes with goals by Devon Prescott and Justin Detter.

The Wildcats had a few more chances, as they out-shot the Irish in both halves, but they were unable to capitalize on their opportunities.

Shortly after the game, the team received news that, despite the loss, they would still qualify for the Big East Tournament because of the way other games played out. It really changed our tune when we got the news,” Joel Scardeli said. “I think it helped us put a tough game behind us.”

The Wildcats hope to avenge their earlier 2-0 loss to St. John’s, but will have to do so on the Red Storm’s home turf and without captain Dave O’Donnell. O’Donnell has been contractually obligated to sit out games against the Red Storm since he transferred from St. John’s two years ago.

“It’s really disappointing for me to be missing our biggest game of the year, but this was a sacrifice I had to make in order to play here,” O’ Donnell said. “I have confidence in our team, and hopefully I will have the opportunity to play in the next round.”

The Wildcats need a win against the Red Storm to have any hope to receive an NCAA tournament bid. ‘Nova closed out its regular season schedule Wednesday afternoon against Penn State. Results from the game were not available as of press time.