PHILADELPHIA, PA 9/14/2012 – The Villanova Wildcats Men’s Soccer team was trying to bounce back after their first loss of the season. The Wildcats needed to bounce back from a 3 – 2 halftime deficit against the University of Pennsylvania Quakers. They did scoring three second half goals in a 5 – 3 win over the Red and Blue at Rhodes Field in a Big East – Ivy League Challenge game. Villanova had not given up three goals in a game let alone a half, but Coach Tom Carlin felt they kept their composure and stayed with the game plan.
“We were very concerned as they had a great game plan,” said Carlin. “We tried to address it at halftime, but we were only a goal away. We let in three goals, but you look at it like you’re only down a goal.”
“We have a lot of upper classmen out there. The one thing I told them was that we were down a goal, and we’ve got to stay on the game plan. Don’t lose your head, don’t lose your emotions, keep attacking and let’s beat them on the scoreboard. “
It was a back and forth game with each team going at each other in a physical, all-out game. Penn got the first lead on a goal by Sophomore forward Mariano Gonzalez-Guerineau in the 29th minute. Villanova answered with a goal less than two minutes later on a score by Sophomore forward Aaron Dennis. The Wildcats took the lead on a penalty kick Senior midfielder Emerson Lawrence, his first of two goals in the game. The Red and Blue fought back when Sophomore midfielder Duke Lacroix made a nifty move to tie the game at two. Penn got the lead when Senior midfielder and Co-captain Travis Cantrell converted a penalty kick giving his team their halftime advantage.
“It was a crazy game and we had the lead at the half, but I can’t say we had control of the game,” said Penn Coach Rudy Fuller. “Both teams went at each other the entire game, and it looked like a city derby. The soccer wasn’t the prettiest, but had a lot of passion with both teams going a hundred miles an hour up and down the field. It was a great physical effort by our guys.”
In the second half Villanova got the equalizer on a header by Sophomore midfielder Oscar Umar in the 51st minute. In the 76th minute Lawrence got his second goal of the game and his fourth of the season on a one-touch shot off a pass from Junior defenseman Ryan Whelan. Sophomore forward Dylan Renna got the insurance goal.
“When you give up five goals, it’s going to be hard to win any game,” said Fuller. “We had chances but couldn’t put them away, and that put us into a tough spot.”
Villanova kept the pressure on in the second half out-shooting Penn 15 – 7 in the latter half, 26 – 20 for the game forcing Penn Sophomore Goalkeeper Max Kurtzman to make a career-high 10 saves. The Villanova size and pressure proved to be the difference.
“We felt with our speed and size we could create chances, and we certainly did,” Carlin said.
“In the first half we kept possession a lot better,” said Cantrell about what was working early. “In the second half we were beaten in transition, we didn’t get numbers, and we lost some physical battles.”
Villanova improves to 5 – 1 on the season. The Wildcats will meet Princeton in game two of the Challenge. Carlin feels this type of series holds great importance for Villanova.
“They’re huge,” Carlin said. “Penn is a local rival that have played well in the Soccer Six. Princeton is an NCAA Tournament team. When you plat two Ivy teams that are rockin’ and rollin’ it’s a big weekend.”
Penn is still looking for its first win of the season after dropping its fifth game. The Red and Blue will go to Georgetown for their next Challenge contest. The Quakers gave a great effort and this type of game is something they can build upon as they look toward conference play.
“We’re looking at these games to get us ready for the Ivy League,” said Cantrell. “We can take positives that we can learn from. We are looking to build as a team.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian