The Villanova Wildcats men's soccer team took on local rival Penn on Friday night, and followed that up with a match against Ivy Leagues foes Princeton. The team split the weekend set, beating Penn Friday night in a wild game 5-3, before losing a tough match against Princeton 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at the West Campus Soccer Complex.
Friday night's 8-goal affair against the Quakers saw Tom Carlin's squad return to it's early season goal-scoring ways - and this without Kyle Soroka who was ruled out with a knee injury.
'Nova's resiliency was on display Friday as they needed to come back from a 3-2 halftime deficit. The scoring opened with Penn's Mariano Gonzalez pouncing on a rebound in the 29th minute, but Aaron Dennis would respond quickly to record the first 'Nova goal to knot the score at 1 in the 31st minute.
Just 2 minutes later Emerson Lawrence would convert a spot kick to give Villanova the 2-1 lead, but it wouldn't last as Duke Lacroix would even the game for Penn at 2 before Villanova would be called for a foul in their own box, with Travis Cantrell converting the spot kick for the Quakers in the 45th minute.
"Penn had a good game plan and hurt us in transition in the first half," stated Villanova head coach Tom Carlin. "They were able to ignite transition opportunities and had the upper hand at halftime. But we made some adjustments and did a much better job in the second half. We kept attacking and were able to get the goals we needed."
'Nova's resiliency was on display Friday as they needed to come back from a 3-2 halftime deficit.
In the second half 'Nova would explode on offense. First a familiar sight brought the Wildcats onto level terms. Sean Sheridan fed a ball into the box that Oscar Umar rode to nod in the net. Then in the 76th minute Ryan Whalen would surge forward from his right-back position to square a ball across the box for Lawrence to redirect into the net, completing his brace on the evening and giving the Wildcats the lead.
Dylan Renna would open his account and close out the scoring in the 79th minute, securing a wild 5-3 victory for 'Nova over their cross-town rivals.
Sunday would be a completely different affair however, a clear picture of just how maddening this crazy game can be.
A hard-fought game that featured each team controlling the run of play for stretches would turn out to be a cruel afternoon for Villanova. In the 27th minute of the game the lone goal would come as Cameron Porter dribbled along the right side of the field. His tricky dribbling allowed him to separate just enough to whip a cross through the 'Nova box where Thomas Stanner was waiting on the far side of the goal for a simple tap in.
Villanova would try and try again, with their best chance coming with just under 1 minute to play when freshman Kye West broke free on a breakaway after a nice slide-rule pass. He attempted to shoot around the Princeton keeper, but his shot sailed agonizingly wide.
Carlin would bemoan his team's injuries following the game, but realizes there is little time for his squad to feel sorry for themselves.
"We're banged up right now," says Carlin. "We were deep into our bench and played 18 guys. The good part is that I thought some of the guys we brought in gave us energy and helped us late."
"I thought we were a little sluggish early," Carlin says. "It may have been that we were worn down from the comeback against Penn, I'm not sure. We showed a lot of heart and kept battling. Now we have to re-group and get ready for a tough battle with La Salle on Thursday."
Villanova is back in action on Thursday when they take on La Salle at the West Soccer Complex at 4 pm ET.