Wildcats drop close Big East battle on Senior Night

Brett Klein

On Friday Nov. 7—Senior Day at the Higgins Soccer Complex—the Wildcats battled No. 11 Georgetown Hoyas and eventually fell by a score of 2-1 after freshman midfielder Arun Basuljevic buried a shot in the back of the net with less than six minutes to play. 

Before the game, Villanova honored its six seniors—midfielder Oscar Umar, defensemen Colton Bryant and Matt Wiltse and forwards Aaron Dennis, Hayden Harr and J.T. Maurer. Maurer made his first career start in this regular season finale. 

The seniors have provided leadership for the squad all year. It’s an unwritten rule that veterans will step up and be the steady hands to right the ship when it becomes necessary. 

“A lot of guys look up to me,” Dennis said. “I lead by example in practice and in the games. I compete on both sides of the ball and hopefully my energy influences my teammates to do the same thing.” 

 The Wildcats were locked in to the No. 5 seed in next week’s Big East Tournament regardless out Friday’s outcome, but the Hoyas were playing to earn one of the top two seeds in the tournament with a win. 

Georgetown kicked off the scoring just over eight minutes into the game. Hoya junior forward Brandon Allen sent a hard shot on goal that was saved, but the rebound found senior forward Austin Martz, who promptly put it home. 

Despite falling behind early, the ’Cats quickly regained their composure and shut down the Hoyas’ offense for the rest of the first half. 

Until Basuljevic’s game-winning goal, the Villanova defense was rock-solid even with two of its starting defensemen sidelined. Two starting defenders, senior Colton Bryant and sophomore Willis Griffith, sat out the match and were replaced in the lineup by juniors Michael Manta and Sean Sheridan. 

“Georgetown is very smart with their runs,” said sophomore goalkeeper Will Steiner. “But Mike [Manta] and Sean [Sheridan] were very good at communicating and making sure that they followed the forwards through.” 

The Wildcats tied the score with two minutes remaining in the half. The play started with a penalty kick from senior midfielder Oscar Umar, who looked primed to lob the ball into the Hoyas’ penalty box and let his forwards vie for possession with the defense.

Instead, Umar sent a sharp pass to the foot of sophomore midfielder Andreas Bartosinski who stood 23 yards out on the left side of the goal. Before the Georgetown defense could react, Bartosinski launched a strike to the top right corner that sailed past the goalkeeper to even the score.

In spite of the 1-1 tie, the Hoyas outplayed the ’Cats in the first half by creating more scoring opportunities and keeping the ball out of their end. ’Nova’s first half attacks frequently ended before the Georgetown defense felt much pressure. 

However, the Villanova defense tightened up in the second half and limited the Hoyas to just four shots. 

“We spoke at halftime and came out with a different energy in the second half,” said Dennis. “We were defending better as a team and came out with a hunger.” 

Still, though, the Wildcats offense tried in vain to create scoring chances, most of which ended with Georgetown reclaiming possession.  

The final scoring play of the day developed quickly as the Hoyas advanced the ball toward Villanova’s goal. 

As the ’Cats’ defense retreated, sophomore midfielder Bakie Goodman connected with a streaking Basuljevic for the game-winner. 

The Wildcats’ inspired second half play ended up being for naught, but the team still believes it can play with any team as they enter postseason play.