LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – A strong defensive effort and a pair of goals from two seniors helped lift Villanova to a 2-0 victory over Rider Wednesday evening. The Wildcats leveled their overall record at 3-3 heading into Saturday’s BIG EAST opener against Marquette. The Broncs, meanwhile, drop to 3-2 overall, 0-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Senior Lucas Hodges got the first goal – on his birthday, no less – and classmate Andreas Bartosinski added a second half score off a feed from freshman Theo Quartey. Goalkeeper Will Steiner made four saves and the back four of Christopher Bared, Shane Bradley, Andres Camacho and Nikkye DePoint were steady in helping post the clean sheet.
"We just needed this," stated Villanova head coach Tom Carlin. "We didn't play our game at Loyola Saturday. I thought we need to respond with solidarity and strength. We did that tonight."
The Wildcats generated a quality chance in the game’s 18th minute off a corner kick from the left side by Miguel Polley. The senior sent a ball across the 18 yard box that was headed back towards DePoint, who was positioned in front of the left post, DePoint’s re-direction appeared headed for the top shelf before Rider goalkeeper David Pastuna got a hand on the ball in time to deflect it over the cross bar.
A short while later, Bartosinski created a bid for freshman Yusuf Cueceoglu just outside the top of the 18 yard box with some nifty ball distribution. But the blast from Cueceoglu sailed high and wide of the net.
"Credit to Rider, they created some chances midway through the first half," Carlin said. "We were back on our heels a little bit but Steiner and our back line did a good job of keeping them off the scoreboard."
Steiner was again on point in the 36th minute when he made a save after Jose Aguinaga drove down the right side and fired a chest high shot towards the right side of the goal. He was there again moments later to stop another Rider bid to keep the match deadlocked at zero.
"Steiner just stayed big and was in good position to make those saves." stated Carlin.
With 3:08 remaining in the first half, the Wildcats were in the midst of applying pressure in front of the Broncs net. Cueceoglu sent a shot toward the goal that caught the hand of a Rider defender. Hodges converted the ensuing penalty kick by burying his shot into the right side of the net above the reach of Pastuna to stake VU to a 1-0 lead.
"That goal changed the game," Carlin said. "Jack Gilliam came in off the bench, beat a man and then he and Yusuf combined to create the chance that led to the hand ball."
Despite being out-shot 5-2 in the first 45 minutes, it was Villanova that took the 1-0 advantage into halftime.
A Rider foul call made in an effort to slow Quartey in the midfield resulted in a quality chance for the Wildcats in the 50th minute. Junior Zach Zandi sent the free kick just wide to the left of the goal.
The Wildcats extended their lead off a nifty play in transition. Quartey found Bartosinski on a run along the right side and the senior managed to tap the ball and send a low shot toward goal a split second before Pastuna could get there. That made the count 2-0 at 56:39. The goal was Bartosinki’s third of 2017.
"Andreas has an impeccable sense of timing," noted Carlin. "He got a toe poke on it to finish a great run."
Rider amped up the pressure and came up with a chance in the 76th minute off a free kick from the left side. But a Broncs header was contested in the box and sailed wide of the net.
The Broncs owned a 9-7 edge in shots but Villanova boarded its charter bus with its first road victory of the campaign. It will host Marquette at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at the Higgins Soccer Complex (BIG EAST Digital Network).