Nov. 2, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - On a day when the Villanova Wildcats seemed on the cusp of generating a goal that would have given them a huge boost in their regular season home finale, they instead saw Xavier turn one late transition opportunity against them. The Musketeers' Matt Walker scored at 86:57 to snap a scoreless deadlock and give Xavier a 1-0 win over Villanova.
The Wildcats, who entered the day's play in a log-jam battle for one of the six spots in the BIG EAST Championship later this month, fall to 8-8-1 overall, 3-5-0 BIG EAST. Xavier won its sixth consecutive match and improved to 10-5-2 overall, 6-2-0 in the conference.
"We came up short in the moment of truth," stated head coach Tom Carlin. "I told the guys after the game that to win games you've got to score goals. That transitional stuff, the kind they scored on, is something that's happened to us a bunch of times this year. We've got to learn from it. It's those kinds of things that have put us in the position we are in now. "We just have to hope that scores go our way and go into Georgetown and get something out of that."
The Wildcats out-shot the Musketeers 14-6 on the afternoon and were particularly effective at applying pressure in the final stages of the second half. Junior Oscar Umar created a glorious opportunity in the 76th minute with a nifty move along the left side to elude a Musketeer defender before unleashing a rising shot that seemed ticketed for the right side of the net.
However, Xavier goalkeeper Eric Osswald came up with a tremendous save, extending his body fully to get a hand on the shot and knock it away. Junior Aaron Dennis also created some solid chances around the Xavier goal.
But the Wildcats were unable to get the ball over the goal line. Osswald saved all seven of the shots on goal he faced.
"We had the attacking push we needed," Carlin noted. "We were getting in behind them and we had the runners through. We had the chances - but we didn't score. That's the thing of it. Xavier deserves credit too.
"I was proud of the guys' effort. We put ourselves in a situation where nothing less than a win was acceptable and we didn't get it. Now we just have to deal with it."
The winning goal came after Xavier gained possession near mid-field. Gino De Paoli took the ball and threaded it between a pair of defenders just as Walker made his run. Walker accepted the pass and moved in alone on the left side on Wildcats goalkeeper Andrew Weakly, who came off his line to challenge the shooter. Walker sent a low shot into the right corner of the net with just 3:03 left to play in regulation.
Villanova scrambled fiercely to try to get the equalizer with Weakly coming all the way to the mid-field stripe at one point. But the Musketeers effectively defended the last of VU's four corner kicks on the day and ran out the clock.
"We've gotten a lot better as a team," noted Carlin. "From New Mexico to here, it's been a big jump. This group has learned a lot and developed. I am proud of them in that sense. We feel like the guys are bought in and have really tried to embody what Villanova Soccer is.
"That's bittersweet, though. You feel good about all that but this one really hurts."
Villanova wraps up the regular season on Friday when it visits Georgetown at 2:00 p.m.