Men’s Soccer Routed by Penn State, 4-0


Courtesy of Onward State

Penn State’s Peter Mangione scored a hat trick to defeat the Wildcats on Tuesday night.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

Villanova men’s soccer dropped its first game in four matches Tuesday night, falling to Penn State 4-0. Sophomore midfielder Peter Mangione scored three of the Nittany Lions’ goals, one in the 27th minute, one in the 35th and one from the penalty spot in the 75th. Junior midfielder Andrew Privett also added a goal of his own at the 69-minute mark.

The first half started with the Nittany Lions dominating possession in the driving rain at Jeffrey Field, a venue the Wildcats are now 0-9 at all-time. Penn State’s pressing style of play made it impossible for the ‘Cats to put together a stretch of possession through the first ten minutes. The Nittany Lions were not able to take advantage of their early dominance, as they only totaled two shots, neither of which were on frame, through the midway point of the first half. 

The Wildcats were able to find a few attacking opportunities in the early goings, namely a nice chance from sophomore forward Akinjide Awujo off of a feed from junior midfielder Anthony Dragisics that was just slightly mishit on the volley. Awujo was very active in just his second start of the year for the Wildcats, creating chances while the Nittany Lions’ backline focused on forward and two-time Big East freshman of the week Balthi Saunders and prominent goal-scoring threat Lyam MacKinnon. 

The Wildcats finally found a spell of possession around the 20th minute, culminating with junior midfielder Gray Ricca firing a shot from about 20 yards out that sailed over the crossbar. 

Through 25 minutes of play, neither team had a shot on frame. That would change shortly thereafter, as Mangione slotted away a weak ball sent across the 18-yard box by redshirt senior midfielder Pierre Reedy to give the Nittany Lions a one-goal advantage as the rain continued to come down in sheets. Notably, both Saunders and MacKinnon were brought off after the Penn State goal. MacKinnon came back on to start the second half, but Saunders was held out even longer, eventually re-entering the game after the second half of play was well underway. 

A yellow card was issued to Dragisics after he made a late tackle on a Nittany Lion in the Penn State 18-yard box. Shortly thereafter in the 35th minute, Mangione made it two on the night off a ball from Privett. The Nittany Lions continued to pressure until the end of the half, and the ‘Cats went into the locker room down 2-0. Penn State held a 7-3 advantage in shots after 45 minutes. It was the first time the Wildcats faced a two-goal deficit all season. 

The ‘Cats came out firing to start the second half, as it seemed they had figured out the Penn State press. They created chances but ultimately couldn’t finish any of them.

“We had really carried the play in the second half and had some other chances but we didn’t finish them,” Coach Tom Carlin said to Villanova Athletics.

The ‘Cats created their most dangerous chance of the night in the 49th, but sophomore keeper Owen Elliot made two stellar back-to-back saves on junior midfielder Viktor Benediktsson and Ricca. 

“We were on our front foot and really pressing at the start of the second half,” Coach Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. “The guys really battled, and from where we were, it looked like Viktor’s ball was going in.”

The Nittany Lions swung back the run of play to their advantage around the 60th minute, creating a chance in the 63rd that was only stopped from the back of the net by a heroic block from Dragisics. 

However, it wasn’t much longer before the home side found their third goal of the night as Privett broke away on the counter-attack in the 69th minute, slotting one past senior keeper Carson Williams. 

Williams was issued a straight red card on a last-ditch tackle in the 18-yard box on a Nittany Lion forward. It’s the first time that Williams has been sent off in his Wildcat career, and only the 5th time he’s conceded more than two goals in a game. The red card means that Williams will miss Saturday’s Big East match against Butler. 

Mangione stepped up to take the penalty for the Nittany Lions, and placed the ball beautifully into the bottom corner, despite a valiant effort from replacement keeper senior Kent Dickey, who dove the right way. The hat trick for Mangione is the first Penn State’s had since 2010. 

From there on out, it was merely a formality, as Penn State controlled possession and took their foot off the gas, although they did find a few chances for a fifth that ultimately came up short.

After falling to 5-2 on the year, the Wildcats will look to rebound in their second game of Big East play against Butler at home on Saturday. The game kicks off at 1 P.M.