VILLANOVA, Pa. – Every once in a while, Villanova head coach Tom Carlin and his staff have to take a step back to absorb the big picture. That’s because, even with a lineup dotted with seasoned veterans such as Andreas Bartosinski, Miguel Polley, Will Steiner, Christopher Bared and Zach Zandi, there is another segment of the rotation that is still in the early portion of its collegiate journey.
No fewer than eight of the Wildcats who saw action in last week’s 2-1 double overtime victory over Delaware were first or second year players. Three freshmen – Yusuf Cueceoglu, Theo Quartey, and Richie Schlentz have earned substantial playing time through the season’s first five games (2-3-0 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST)..
Viewed in that context, some of the early season ups (wins over UMBC and the Blue Hens) and downs (a home loss to Temple and 1-0 defeat Saturday night at Loyola) are understandable.
“When we go into most settings we don’t even look at our guys’ class years,” states Carlin. “”We just look at them all as veterans. But I think it’s a point worth noting that, as a group, we returned a lot of guys form last year yet we look a lot different now than we did last year. Even this year, after the first two games, we changed our system.
“We had some success at home after those changes. It created some momentum for us and then we got exploited a little bit at Loyola. There was probably some naiveté coming from a lack of experience. The good part of that is that we are much further along than we have ever been with a younger group.”
The Wildcats will have scoring leader Cueceoglu back in the lineup after he missed the Loyola game due to a family matter. The freshman has been an offensive catalyst in the early going for the Wildcats with six points in four games played (two goals, two assists).
Rider has won three in a row. In that stretch were victories over Temple, which defeated the Wildcats 1-0 on Aug. 29, and BIG EAST rival Seton Hall. The Broncs are 3-1 overall and feature a potent attack.
“This is a very good attacking team which scored a lot of goals last year and has showed that same kind of potency this year,” Carlin said. “They have a bunch of international players and bring a lot of talent. They present challenges and make you defend them. They make you throw numbers at them defensively because they are dangerous.
“We have to stick to the fundamentals defensively and find our possessions. If we are able to extend our possessions that’s less time you have to spend defending them.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Lawrenceville, N.J.