Oct. 28, 2009
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Playing without its leading scorer Mike Seamon, Villanova (9-6-2 overall, 5-4-1 BIG EAST) delivered a strong effort in a critical BIG EAST Red Division match here against Rutgers on Wednesday night. VU posted a 3-0 win over the Scarlet Knights (7-9-0 overall, 4-6-0 BIG EAST) and secured a berth in the BIG EAST Tournament with the triumph.
A red card issued to Seamon in Saturday's 3-1 loss to USF made him ineligible to participate on what was a cool, damp evening at Yurcak Field. Rain that fell throughout the previous 36 hours had ended by game time but the natural turf surface was slippery in its aftermath.
"This was good for our confidence," stated Villanova head coach Tom Carlin. "When you play without one of your leaders, it forces some other guys to step into leadership roles and our guys stepped. We got an early goal and were very good with all the little things that are so important in a game like this. It was just a real solid effort for us."
The Wildcats earned the game's first scoring chance off a free kick from junior Chris Christian. Christian fed a ball into the box that was knocked back toward the top of the box where freshman Emerson Lawrence sent a ball into from the left side that goalkeeper Alex Morgans got a hand on. Sophomore Will Ogden had a shot at the rebound but the Scarlet Knights managed to defuse the threat in the fifth minute.
Villanova took advantage of its next quality scoring chance at 13:15. The Wildcats made a smooth transition through the midfield and the ball made its way to the foot of Lawrence. The freshman then fed a low ball across the box to Anthony "Jordy" Griffith who nimbly used his foot to slip the ball past Morgans and into the net. It was Griffith's third goal of the season and staked the `Cats to a 1-0 advantage.
In the 27th minute sophomore Kevin Garcia created an excellent chance for VU. Garcia used a burst of speed to dribble past a Rutgers defender down the left sideline. Then, he cut towards the top of the 18 yard box and send a strong shot along the wet grass towards Morgan, who was able to make the save. The rebound rolled free before a whistle blew signaling a Wildcat foul and ending the threat.
It looked as though the `Cats might get their second goal of the night in the 34th minute when sophomore Matt Margiotta came wide open on the left side. He dribbled in and sent a beautiful cross in front of the net towards a charging Lawrence near the right post. But Lawrence was a split second late and couldn't control the pass before it rolled over the end line.
The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead into the break at halftime. Rutgers held a 5-4 edge in shots but none were especially dangerous and goalkeeper Chris Bresnahan needed to make just one save.
Rutgers turned the heat up at the start of the second half, creating their best chance to that point when Yannick Solomon lofted a ball towards the VU net that grazed the cross bar before skidding off toward the right sideline.
"They started pushing late in the first half and we talked at halftime about the fact they would be coming hard at us," stated Carlin. "They needed this game and they almost got one in that first flurry in the second half. But when you commit that many guys to the attack, there are counterattack opportunities. We talked about that at halftime and were able to take advantage of one to get the two goal lead."
Villanova countered quickly and came up with a score in the 48th minute. Sophomore Jake Heyer started the play along the right side when he fed a ball to Sean Mergenthal just inside the 18 yard spot. The Blackwood, N.J., native had time to turn and fire a blast into the left corner of the net to give the Wildcats a two-goal cushion.
Garcia generated a terrific chance in the 63rd minute when he dribbled in on the left side and sent a low blast that caromed off the left post. Later in the half, he sent a header that nearly sneaked in under the crossbar.
A collision in the Scarlet Knight box with Morgans in the 82nd minute resulted in a penalty kick for Christian, who calmly deposited a ball into the left side of the net to make it 3-0. That was the final score.
"We're happy to be in the BIG EAST Tournament and now we have a chance to get a first round home game," said Carlin. "We'll be playing the top team on our side in the conference (Louisville) and it won't be easy, but we'll go into that game with confidence."
The Wildcats wrap up the BIG EAST regular season on Saturday against the Cardinals at 1:00 p.m. at the Soccer Complex.