PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - After 45 minutes of soccer here at Penn Park on Friday night, Villanova found itself in uncharted waters at this stage in 2012 - trailing their opponent. But the Wildcats kept their cool and rallied with a pair of second half goals to defeat Hartford 2-1 in a non-conference match played here under the lights on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
"This was the first time we were in that spot this year," stated Villanova head coach Tom Carlin of the deficit at intermission, which came courtesy of a Javoni Simms goal for the Hawks just before the end of the first half. "We challenged the guys at halftime and they responded."
The first half was played evenly for the most part. Both teams generated quality chances but only the Hawks were able to get on the scoreboard. Omar Tall's shot was stopped in front and came directly to Javoni Simms who calmly deposited the ball into the right side of the net at 42:01 to give the Hawks (2-3-0 overall) the advantage.
"We didn't play badly in the first half," noted Carlin. "We just weren't trying to go win the game. I didn't think we attacked the way we had earlier this season and when you do that, you leave yourself open to falling behind."
Villanova remedied that in the second half. In the course of those 45 minutes, they would generate 15 shots to the Hawks six. There were several close calls, including a flurry in front of Hawk goalkeeper Viltsu Tuumi in the 61st minute and a header from William Cason in the 70th minute. Yet VU had nothing to show for those efforts.
The equalizer came in the 73rd minute when Cason pushed forward from his spot as a central back and turned a nice feed from sophomore Aaron Dennis into a booming shot into the top shelf of the net. The goal came at 72:48 and the score was tied at one.
Not long after came another pivotal moment. Hartford's Kevin Lewis was issued a red card as the Wildcats pressed forward and it didn't take Villanova long to exploit the Hawks' being down a man. On the ensuing free kick senior Kyle Soroka found sophomore Oscar Umar on the right side of the field and Umar's shot at the net eluded Tuumi at 74:35 to put the Wildcats in front.
"We won some battles in the second half and got one from our center back pushing forward," said Carlin.
Villanova improves to 4-0-0 and gets set to meet Air Force back here at Penn Park on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.