Oct. 18, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Having built some momentum with consecutive victories, the Villanova Wildcats are set to visit Omaha, Neb., for their first ever BIG EAST meeting with No. 12 Creighton (6-4-2 overall, 2-1-1 BIG EAST). Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. eastern time at Morrison Stadium.
The Wildcats downed Lehigh in their final non-league match of the campaign on Tuesday afternoon at the Soccer Complex to even their overall record at 6-6-1. That came on the heels of a 2-0 win over No. 22 St. John's at home last Saturday.
"Creighton is very good at home," noted Villanova head coach Tom Carlin. "You can say that about a lot of schools but they play particularly well at home. For us, it's a chance to play a nationally ranked program. We need to attack and defend them with confidence to show ourselves that we can go into an environment like this and execute.
"We have had the ability to do that over the last couple of years. This year, we haven't seen that as much. We need to be able to do that consistently and now is the time to do it."
There are parallels between this campaign and 2011. That year, the Wildcats endured six up and down weeks before posting a signature 3-1 home victory over St. John's on Oct. 19. Three days later on Oct. 22, they were in Tampa to face a USF squad ranked in the top 10. Villanova fell 2-1 that night but stood toe to toe with the Bulls.
Just two short weeks later on Nov. 6, Villanova returned in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Championship and stunned the No. 5 ranked Bulls 1-0, earning the program's first semifinal appearance since 1993.
"That St. John's game in '11 gave us a kick start in the right direction," stated Carlin. "It gave us a second wind. Now, I think the confidence we have developed in our two game winning streak has to be reflected at Creighton. Playing at USF and Creighton are similar type situations. I feel we can go in there and play well. I also feel this group still has a little bit to prove."
"Hopefully, it can be similar to our effort in '11. That year and that game is pretty much the same situation we are in now."
Villanova featured a few lineup changes in its win over Lehigh owed to injuries and the absence of junior Oscar Umar, who was forced to the sidelines after receiving his fifth yellow card against St. John's. Carlin expects to have his full roster to deploy when the Wildcats step on to the pitch on Saturday night.
"We were out of sorts against Lehigh with our personnel," noted Carlin. "We had some guys moved around because we were without Oscar and (Andrew) Weakly. We had some other guys with nagging injuries that we used less than we ordinarily would have. Throughout the course of the game we looked a little different.
"Going into Creighton we have our guys back. We had some nagging injuries but we have the full allotment now. We have everybody healthy for this game."
Carlin also appreciates that the Lehigh contest may have earned some more playing time for some of the reserves who stepped forward that day. Freshman forward John Jlopleh earned his first career start after scoring in the win over the Red Storm and Carlin also called on Fabian Gonzalez and Damilola Adetola off the bench. Freshman Mike Barr posted a shutout in his first college starting assignment in goal.
"We started some guys who weren't even playing at the beginning of the year," stated Carlin. "We got some confidence for those guys. We are at a point now where we can use 18 guys. If you can use 18 guys, it's a good thing to say when you are on the road and have to go into an environment where you may be chasing the ball."
After the visit to play the Bluejays, the Wildcats return home to host Providence on Wednesday, Oct. 23.