Sep 6, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - As the Villanova Wildcats prepare for their third match of the regular season on Saturday against Marist (1:00 p.m./Nova Nation All-Access), head coach Tom Carlin says he is encouraged by the signs of progress displayed in Tuesday's home opener against Hartford (a 1-1 draw).
"Our commitment level to winning first and second balls in the middle of the field and doing a lot of the dirty work intangibles was definitely much better than it was at New Mexico," states Carlin. "That led to a lot of our chances. That's now the standard. Our guys are going to have to remember that even though we didn't get the win in the Hartford game, we did create a standard of play that we can build on."
Marist dropped its first two regular season games last weekend on a visit to California. The Red Foxes fell to UC Irvine 1-0 and lost to UC Davis by the count of 2-0. Marist finished 5-10-1 in 2012 and was picked to finish eighth in the pre-season Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference poll. The squad voted atop that same MAAC poll is Monmouth, Villanova's next opponent.
The Wildcats rebounded from a season opening 7-2 loss to New Mexico to gain the draw against the Hawks. Freshman back Willis Griffith scored the goal in the final minute of the first half. Junior Andrew Weakly made six saves for VU in a strong effort.
"We talk about being better at home," noted Carlin. "We haven't won a game at home but we haven't lost a game at home going back to the preseason. For us, it's just a matter of matching that commitment level to the intangibles that we had the other day. We also have to make good decisions in the moment of truth defensively. That's where we got ourselves into trouble at New Mexico."
With a backline that has undergone a complete overhaul from last season after the departure of three key veterans, there continues to be improvement. Griffith and junior Colton Bryant now hold forth at center back, with sophomore Liam Callahan and junior Matt Wiltse on the outside. None of those four played regularly at those positions a year ago.
"This backline has come a long way," Carlin states. "There is still a long way to go as well. But you can tell by how fast they are playing now. At the beginning, young players tend to play more slowly because they are thinking a lot. They are seeing the game a little better.
"There are still a few mental lapses, which makes us inconsistent. But it's all come a long way since we started camp."
Following this match, the `Cats will be away from the Villanova Soccer Complex for three straight games, at Monmouth (Sept. 11), at Stony Brook (Sept. 15) and at Temple (Sept. 21). The next home game for Villanova comes on Sept. 24, when Penn visits West Campus for a Philly Soccer Six clash.