Oct. 30, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Saturday looms as an important day for BIG EAST teams looking to improve their station or lock down a slot in the 2013 Conference Championship, which begins Nov. 12. One of those key matches takes place at Villanova as the Wildcats host Xavier on Senior Day at 3:00 p.m. on West Campus.
Villanova hopes to continue a late season surge that has delivered four victories in the last five outings, including a 1-0 win at DePaul on Oct. 26. The Wildcats are 3-4-0 in BIG EAST action, tied with Seton Hall and Butler for the sixth and final bid to the conference championship (8-7-1 overall).
Xavier, meanwhile, enters Saturday's action one point behind BIG EAST leaders Georgetown and Marquette, each of whom has accumulated 16 points via a 5-1-1 league mark (9-5-2 overall). The Musketeers, who downed Providence 2-1 at home last Saturday, are very much alive in the chase for the league title as well as a first round bye as one of the top two finishers.
It is a clear case of simple math: the three points awarded for victories are of immense importance at this time of year and a single point generated by a draw can have value too. The Wildcats are cognizant of that larger truth though they prefer to focus on the small details that can spell the difference between three points or none.
"Our guys approached us about different scenarios and our response was, `all that matters for us right now is Xavier," stated Villanova head coach Tom Carlin. "We have to concentrate on Xavier and have blinders on to anything else.
"Xavier is a very good program. They beat Georgetown and pulled some big-time wins off against quality opponents in the last few weeks. It's the BIG EAST and we know this will be another battle. We know these are going to be tight, hard-fought games. Xavier has been an NCAA Tournament program the last couple of years and it's looking like it will be again."
A pre-game ceremony will honor the Wildcats' three seniors prior to their final regular season appearance on West campus. Each has played a key role in helping a young roster position itself for this late season surge. Adetomiwa Adewole has two goals and one assist for five points in 12 games. Adewole, who came to Villanova from Ashton, Md., has become a physical presence near the opponent's goal after appearing in only four games as a junior in 2012. Saturday's game will be Daniel Gonzalez's 75th in the Blue and White and his 50th starting assignment. The midfielder from Allen, Tex., has started all 16 games in 2013 for the `Cats and been steady throughout.
Dylan Renna, meanwhile, has collected all seven of his points this season over the last five weeks. The product of West Milford, N.J. is a four-year starter who has contributed 11 goals and 16 assists to the cause for the Wildcats.
"This class has been a part of the transformation," said Carlin.. "They were sophomores when we beat Notre Dame and made that run. They have really seen the program grow, from where it used to be to where it is now, which is almost where we want it to be in the sense of the NCAA Tournament.
"They've been there through the thick and thin with this team. I certainly feel that progression and development they have made as individuals and members of this community kind of reflect the progress this program has made."
As the season pivots towards its culmination goals can be harder to come by. The Wildcats have posted shutouts in four of their last five outings and surrendered only two goals in that stretch. Yet it has also been harder to produce goals - the `Cats have struck for six in those five contests.
"As you get to the end of the season, everything becomes more heightened and more important," noted Carlin. "Defensively you are hopefully tuned in more. On the attack you are tuned in more as well. I think as you get into this level of pressure and heightened awareness it makes things a little bit more difficult. When things are more difficult, execution at the attacking end is more challenging than it is on the defensive end."
The Wildcats are well aware of what's at stake in their final two regular season outings. For now, though, their attention is fully on Saturday afternoon.
Notes: Junior Aaron Dennis was named to the BIG EAST Honor Roll this week for his work in games against Providence and DePaul. His feed set up Chris Hill for the `Cats sole goal in a 2-1 double overtime loss to the Friars and his goal in Chicago was the day's only score in a critical 1-0 win over DePaul last Saturday.
Saturday's matinee on West Campus also includes a Villanova women's soccer match at noon as the Wildcats host Providence.