Wildcats Advance to BIG EAST Championship with 9-6 Win over Marquette
May 1, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Following a one hour and 14 minute delay due to lightening and a band of bad weather that struck at the start of the fourth quarter, the Villanova Wildcats (6-9, 3-3) resumed play and surged ahead to top Marquette(6-10, 4-2) 9-6 in Thursday's second BIG EAST semifinal. With the win, the Wildcats earned a spot in the championship match set for Saturday in Villanova Stadium.
The contest was suspended with just 11:15 left to play in the fourth quarter and was delayed over an hour before teams could retake the field. After a five minute warm-up period, action resumed at 9:50 pm before Villanova went to on win more than three hours after the opening faceoff.
It marked the second victory for Villanova over Marquette this season and the Wildcats have now earned the right to play for the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Villanova last defeated Marquette 10-8 on March 22nd in Milwaukee, Wis. The Wildcats will now face the No. 2-ranked Denver Pioneers in Saturday's semifinal which will be played at 4:30pm and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1.
The Wildcats dominated the stat sheet and were led by the outstanding performance from senior face-off specialist Thomas Croonquist (North Caldwell, N.J.), who went 14-of-19 (.737) at X and collected a game-high nine ground balls.
Villanova started the game strong following Marquette's opening goal from Kyle Whitlow and went on a four-goal run to bridge the first and second quarters. Junior Eric Gartner (Malvern, Pa.) opened Villanova's scoring with a strong shot from outside to tie the game at 1-1 and followed that score with an assist to sophomore Harry DellaFera (Lattington, N.Y.) to take a 2-1 lead with 1:29 left in the opening quarter.
Danny O'Connell (Sands Point, N.Y.) and Thomas Croonquist (North Caldwell, N.J.) followed suit to close and open the first and second quarters, respectively, to increase the Villanova lead to 4-1. Marquette stopped the 11 minute Wildcat run when Kyran Clarke scored with 9:06 on the clock in the second quarter to close the lead at 4-2.
Coming out of the locker rooms, Marquette began a comeback bid and took a 4-1 advantage in goals for the stanza. Bryan Badolato and Conor Gately closed the Villanova lead to two at 6-4 at the 11:13 and 6:02 marks before Villanova's McNamara increased the Wildcat lead back to three just over two minutes later. The Golden Eagles bookended the quarter with another two scores in a span of 1:45 and made it a one-goal game at 7-6 heading into the final 15 minutes of action.
The Wildcats opened the fourth quarter with goals from Matt McIver (Andover, Mass.) and John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J.) to increase the VU lead to 9-6 before the contest was halted due to lightening. After the resumption of play, neither team could find a steady rhythm and Villanova ran down the clock to secure the win at 9-6.
Defensively, freshman goalkeeper Dan Willis (Moorestown, N.J.) tallied nine saves in the win while Marquette's Jimmy Danaher made 10 stops in the loss. Senior Jimmy Wyatt (Whitehouse Station, N.J.) and sophomore John Moderski (Philadelphia, Pa.) combined for 10 ground balls and two caused turnovers.
Villanova's will look to keep their postseason hopes alive when they face Denver in two short days. The Wildcats will need to win the contest to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament set to begin next week at campus sites. Game time versus the Pioneers is slated for 4:30pm and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1.
NOTES: It marks the second-straight year Villanova will appear in the BIG EAST Championship... Villanova met Syracuse in the 2013 version of the tournament and fell to the Orange 13-9.... Villanova is the only school to appear in all three BIG EAST Tournaments... Villanova and Denver have met seven times in the series history... The Pioneers have a 4-3 advantage in the series and won the regular season contest at Villanova 9-8 in overtime... The Wildcats have played in five overtime contests in 2014 which marks the most in program history... Prior to the start of tonight's game, Villanova's John LoCascio was honored as the 2014 BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year... It marks the second-straight year the senior LSM has earned the honor.