Nov. 17, 1997
1997 Men's Soccer Wrap Up
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Starting the year 0-2 with losses to Lafayette and Temple, 1997 looked the be a long season for the Villanova men's soccer team. Under the direction of Head Coach Larry Sullivan, however, the Wildcats came together and made a Big East run that took them to the conference tournament for the first time since 1993.
On Sept. 5 against Philadelphia Soccer 7 rival LaSalle, the Wildcats and Explorers were caught in a defensive battle, that ended in a 0-0 double overtime tie. In that game, senior goalie Matthew Westfall saved seven shots and tallied his first shutout of the season. Beginning with the LaSalle game, Westfall entered a streak where he was nearly unstoppable, allowing only five goals in an eight game stretch, leading the Wildcats to a 4-1-3 record during that time.
Villanova began its Big East season on Sept 13 against the Mountaineers of West Virginia. It was in that game, when Wildcat freshmen Jim Curtin and Joe Noonan welcomed themselves to the Big East Conference. Just under 20 minutes into the contest, Noonan found the back of the net for his first ever collegiate goal. With senior Paul Miraglia adding a goal and Curtin shutting down the Mountaineer offense, the Wildcats shut out West Virginia 2-0 behind Westfall's two saves and second shutout of the season.
Villanova hit the road next for a trip to Rutgers to play perennial Big East powerhouse and a No. 10 nationally ranked Scarlet Knight team. Down 1-0 with eight minutes remaining, sophomore Donavan Hornsby, a transfer from Division II South Carolina Spartensburg, tied the game at 1-1 with his third goal of the season. With an outstanding performance in the game's two overtime periods by Westfall who saved two of his game-high 16 shots, the Wildcats returned home with a 1-1 tie.
Back home against Connecticut on Sept. 21, with a 2-2-2 record, the Wildcats were looking to extend their unbeaten streak to five games. With seniors Kevin Mullin and Brian Conolly holding the Huskies scoreless in the first half, the game went into intermission tied at 0-0. At the 71:01 mark, senior James Corcoran scored the go-ahead goal to give Villanova a 1-0 victory. With nine more saves and his third shutout of the season, Westfall was named the Big East Defensive Player-of-the-Week, as well as the Philadelphia Soccer 7 Player-of-the-Week.
On Oct. 15, Villanova entered the rough, unfriendly waters of Pirate country to take on Seton Hall. Scoreless for most of the game, the Wildcats fell behind 1-0 at the 67:25 mark. Still down by one goal with eight minutes remaining, Villanova finally broke out. Hornsby took a pass from Corcoran and beat the Pirate goalie to tie the game up at one. Less then two minutes later, sophomore Dave Francalangia scored the game-winning goal off an assist from senior Barry Smith.
The Wildcats entered the season's last Big East weekend with a 5-5-4 overall record and a 3-2-3 mark in the Big East Conference. Against Providence on Oct. 24, Villanova defeated the Friars and officially clinched a berth in the Big East Tournament. With the game still tied and only seven minutes remaining in the second and final overtime period against the Friars, Francalangia struck again like he had against Seton Hall, taking a pass from Corcoran to score his second game-winning goal in three games.
Ending the Big East Conference regular season with a 4-3-3 record, the Wildcats finished in sixth place. Earning a berth in the Big East Tournament for the first time since 1993, the Wildcats traveled to Rutgers to meet the third seeded Scarlet Knights. Despite losing 2-0 to Rutgers in the quarterfinals, Villanova showed the heart that had sparked their 1997 turnaround and earned them a spot in the Big East Tournament. Barry Smith, started and played nearly the full game with a separated shoulder and it was his performance that define d the season for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats had tremendous individual performaces this season that sparked the 1997 turnaround, such as the year had by star goalie Matthew Westfall. Westfall tallied five shutouts and allowed just 0.91 goals a game for overall games this season. It was Villanova's team effort and determination through victory and defeat however, that brought the Wildcats the success they saw in 1997. It was this determination that led them to the pinnacle of Big East soccer: The 1997 Big East Championships.
Overall Record: 6-9-5