’Nova drops Big East quarterfinal to finish season

Paul Regan

The men’s soccer team’s season came to an end last Tuesday as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Providence in the Big East Quarterfinal. The ’Cats, who were picked to finish eighth in the Big East in the pre-season coaches’ poll, but finished fifth in the league, behind Creighton, Xavier, Georgetown and Providence, who returned to post-season play after missing it last year. 

Villanova got off to a slow start by dropping its first three games, all 1-0 defeats on the road, against Marist, Drexel and Hartford. 

Better results started coming when the Wildcats returned home. Three second-half goals gave ’Nova the win against St. Peter’s and a long range strike from senior midfielder Oscar Umar, combined with redshirt freshman goalkeeper Will Steiner’s first career clean sheet, led to a victory over Albany. 

Sophomore forward Max Kroschwitz’s overtime penalty kick against Lehigh gave Villanova its first road win. 

In its taste of conference play, the Wildcats lost a 1-0 match at home against Creighton, the best team in the Big East this year.

But Villanova bounced back at home by taking care of La Salle by a score of 3-0 and DePaul by a tally of 4-0. Senior forward Hayden Harr’s goal against Stony Brook gave ’Nova a 1-0 victory and four wins in five matches.

Next came a series of heartbreaking results, as Villanova lost points by allowing three goals in the last minutes in three consecutive games. The ’Cats lost 2-1 on an 89th minute goal at Providence, tied Seton Hall, 1-1, as the result of an 88th minute penalty kick, and tied Marquette, 1-1, after allowing a goal in the last minute of the match.

The Wildcats responded again with consecutive shutout victories against Butler and St. John’s. The victory versus St. John’s gave ’Nova 11 points in the conference and secured a spot in the Big East playoffs. 

Villanova dropped its final two regular season conference matches against Xavier and Georgetown before being knocked out of the playoffs by Providence. 

The Wildcats posted a record of 8-8-3 overall, 3-4-2 in the Big East play, 5-2-2 at home and 3-6-1 on the road. 

Villanova averaged 1.16 goals per game and held opponents to an average of just 0.86.

The top point producers for the ’Cats were Harr and fellow senior forward Aaron Dennis, who each notched six goals and two assists apiece.

Kroschwitz also had a very productive offensive season, contributing five goals, including three game-winners and three assists. 

Senior center back Colton Bryant, sophomore center back Willis Griffith, junior outside back Chris Hill and freshman outside back Christopher Bared provided a formidable back line all season.

Junior midfielder Sean Sheridan, who started all 19 games, and Umar were staples in the midfield for the Wildcats.

Steiner, in his first season of action, started all 19 matches and performed admirably. 

He made 86 saves, posted a 0.86 goals against average and a 0.835 save percentage and recorded seven shutouts. 

Steiner and Dennis both garnered Big East post-season accolades. Steiner was named to the Big East’s All-Rookie Team and Dennis was named second Team All-Big East.

Villanova returns seven starters next year and will be without seniors Umar, Dennis, Harr, Bryant, defender Matt Wiltse and midfielder J.T. Maurer. 

The 2014 season also marked a new chapter for Villanova soccer with the introduction of the brand new Higgins Soccer Complex.

Head Coach Tom Carlin was pleased with his players’ effort throughout the season and the progress that the Wildcats made since last season.

“It’s been a fun year,” Carlin told Villanova.com. “We started out 0-3 and we finished pretty strong. 

“We attacked and we fought and we had the spirit of things. I thought we did a great job.”