Men’s Soccer Rolls Through St. John’s, 4-0


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

Lyam MacKinnon (above) scored in the 31st minute to give the ‘Cats a 4-0 lead.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

Villanova men’s soccer cruised past St. John’s on Friday evening in Queens, 4-0. Goals came from senior midfielder Gray Ricca, senior forward Lyam MacKinnon, senior defender Viktor Benediktsson and sophomore forward Vincent Petrera. The win keeps the ‘Cats undefeated in Big East play, standing at 1-0-1, 3-2-2 overall. It is also the Wildcats’ first road victory of the 2022 campaign.

Things started off slowly for the Wildcats with the Red Storm’s attack forcing the ‘Cats onto the back foot. However, the game shifted when Ricca found the back of the net in the 24th. Ricca collected a looping ball outside the six-yard box, flicked the ball up to himself and struck the ball on the second touch, finding room at the near post.

“Things weren’t going that well for us early in this game,” Villanova head coach Tom Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. “St. John’s pressure was causing problems for us. It felt like we were defending a lot. But then we got a goal, and when you get the first goal on the road it changes a lot. It took the edge off.”

The floodgates opened for the Wildcats after Ricca’s goal as they went on to score three goals in the span of 19 minutes in the first half. 

The second came off the foot of Lyam MacKinnon, who was able to dribble circles around the Red Storm defenders and slot home a rolling shot inside the near post in the 31st. 

Benediktsson found the third for the Wildcats with yet another goal from a corner set piece, his third in as many games. In the 41st, junior midfielder Dominic Cyriacs whipped a corner into the 18-yard box. The Red Storm failed to make a clearance and Benediktsson was able to connect with the service, sending a rocket from close range past the Red Storm’s keeper. 

“The service we have gotten on the corner kicks the last few games has really made a difference,” Carlin said. “Tonight, it was Dom serving a great ball into (Benediktsson). (He’s) been open in there before but we weren’t always finding him. We’ve found him these last few games and he’s a handful for the defense to deal with.”

Holding a three-nil advantage coming out of the half, the ‘Cats sat in their defensive position. Neither team produced a shot on goal for the first 28 minutes of the second half. 

“Gray Ricca really did a great job defending and so did our back line,” Carlin said. “(Graduate goalkeeper) Kent (Dickey) was there to make a big save when we needed him early. We knew they were going to have to come at us in the second half and we did a great job of holding the line. With them pressing that much, we thought we’d get a chance at another goal and fortunately we did.” 

In the 75th minute, Petrera, who had already collected an assist on the night, struck the back of the net with a left-footed shot that found the top left corner of the goal. 

Dickey kept a clean sheet on the evening without having to make a single save. Villanova outshot St. John’s 11-7, with the ‘Cats also owning the advantage in shots on goal, 4-0. 

“I thought during the Providence game last weekend we lost our cool for 15 minutes or so,” Carlin said. “I challenged the guys about that. We’re an experienced team and they responded tonight. We kept our composure over those early minutes when we weren’t playing the way we wanted to. It paid off in the end.” 

The ‘Cats will return home on Wednesday, Sept. 28 to face in-state foe Penn State. The Nittany Lions sit at 3-2-2, with their most recent result being a 3-3 draw at Maryland. The game is scheduled for a 4 P.M. kick on Wednesday at Higgins Soccer Complex.