Nov. 9, 2011
The Match-up: Red Division No. 5 seed Villanova (8-8-4 overall, 3-5-1 BIG EAST) vs. Red Division No. 3 seed St. John's (12-6-2 overall, 4-5-0 BIG EAST)
BIG EAST Championship Semifinal
When: Friday, Nov. 11, 2011
Where: Harrison, N.J./7:30 p.m.
On the air: CBS Sports Network
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Villanova defeated the No. 4 seed out of the Blue Division Notre Dame 1-0 at Alumni Stadium in opening round action on Thursday evening. It then used a nearly identical blueprint to post a 1-0 win over No. 5/7 USF on Sunday afternoon in Tampa, capitalizing on a first half goal from Kyle Soroka and solid defense to gain their second win over a ranked opponent on the road in four days.
The victory over the Fighting Irish on Nov. 3 was VU's first ever in the post-season. Prior to the 2011 Championship, Villanova was 0-9-2 in BIG EAST playoff action since 1984.
St. John's, meanwhile, reached Red Bull Arena by downing Georgetown 2-1 on its home pitch in Queens before defeating the No. 2 seed in the Blue Division, West Virginia, in Morgantown, W. Va., on Sunday afternoon.
KNOW THE FOE
The Red Storm and Wildcats have met in every season since 1984. St. John's holds a 19-5-4 edge in the series. Villanova head coach Tom Carlin picked up his first win over the Red Storm on Oct. 19 on a wet day at the West Campus Soccer Complex. Junior Kyle Soroka scored twice in a 3-1 win for the Wildcats.
This will be the third meeting between the two schools in the BIG EAST Championship. St. John's defeated VU 6-4 in overtime in the 1993 semifinals and extra time was also required in 2003 when the Red Storm scored an overtime goal to post a 2-1 victory in a quarterfinal match.
This marks Villanova's fourth visit to a BIG EAST semifinal but first since 1993. The `Cats were defeated in the semifinal round in 1984 by Providence (2-0) and in 1991 by Seton Hall (4-0).
TOPPLING THE TOP TEAMS
To reach the semi-finals, Villanova had to take down two nationally ranked squads. Notre Dame owned a No. 18/19 ranking when the Wildcats squared off with the Fighting Irish on Nov. 2. USF was ranked No. 5 in the NSCAA poll and No. 7 by Soccer America when the Wildcats posted their win on Sunday.
When VU met the Red Storm in October, St. John's was ranked No. 12 in the nation.
FOGARTY AT HIS FINEST
Entering this season, senior goalkeeper John Fogarty had logged just 147:26 minutes of game action in three seasons serving as his classmate, Chris Bresnahan's, understudy. When Bresnahan was sidelined for the year by hip surgery in July, the onus then fell to Fogarty, who has more than held up his end of the bargain.
Fogarty has yet to allow a goal in 180 minutes of BIG EAST Championship action. The shutout victories were his seventh and eighth of the season. His goals against average is now 0.90 and he has posted an .832 save percentage.
None of his 94 saves in 2011 was more vital than the one Fogarty recorded in the 89th minute against USF. With the Bulls pouring on the pressure, Stiven Salinas fired a rocket shot from 19 yards out that was ticketed for the upper right corner of the Wildcats' net. But the 6-3 Fogarty leaped and got a hand on the ball to deflect it over the net and out of harm's way. Once the Wildcats thwarted the ensuing USF corner kick, Villanova was on its way to Red Bull Arena.
KYLES HAVE BEEN KEY
Two Wildcats who share the same first name and the gift of versatility have had a major impact on Villanova's success this season, particularly of late. Both Kyle McCarthy and Kyle Soroka have been in top form in the two victories that brought Villanova to Red Bull Arena.
McCarthy began the year in the defensive midfield before shifting to a central defensive role after senior back Chris Christian was lost for the year after seven games with his second torn ACL injury in as many seasons. This new spot was not unfamiliar terrain for the native of Basking Ridge, N.J., - he had logged time there in both 2009 and 2010 filling in for Christian - but it took time for the team to adjust to new look.
Against Notre Dame, McCarthy did much of the heavy lifting in keeping Ryan Finley in check. In Tampa, McCarthy's charge was to deal with the Bulls' Dom Dwyer, who entered the game with 16 goals, including one in USF's 2-1 regular season win over VU on Oct. 22. After 90 minutes on Sunday, Dwyer did not have a single shot.
As for Soroka, he stunned the Bulls at the 2:10 mark of the game with a low blast through a collection of defenders that eluded USF keeper Chris Blaise. The goal was Soroka's fifth of the season and he has managed to be effective while playing wearing a soft cast on his right wrist after injuring that in a game earlier this season.
DID YOU KNOW?
All eight of Villanova's victories this season have come when the Wildcats have scored the first goal.
VU is 8-3-1 this season when scoring first, including 2-0 in the postseason. It is 0-5-1 when its opponent strikes first and also played a pair of scoreless ties.
Though the Wildcats tend to lean on their defense - surrendering only 19 goals in 20 games - they have proved to be opportunistic at the other end of the field. Villanova has 23 goals on the season and relies on a balanced attack rather than a single offensive leader.
Five Wildcats have notched eight or more points this season. The group includes sophomore Dylan Renna (three goals, six assists, 12 points); freshman forward Aaron Dennis (five goals, one assist, 11 points); Soroka (five goals, 10 points); junior midfielder Emerson Lawrence (four goals, eight points) and freshman midfielder Oscar Umar ( two goals, four assists, eight points).
Dennis leads Villanova with four game-winning goals, including the one that lifted Villanova past Notre Dame in the opening round.
The Wildcats have several members of their lineup who will be playing near home at Red Bull Arena.
Junior midfielder Emerson Lawrence is from Newark, N.J. and attended Seton Hall Prep. Senior Chris Christian - who is sidelined with a knee injury - hails from West Orange, N.J. And key defenders Ryan Whalen and Kyle McCarthy are from Basking Ridge, N.J., about a 35-minute ride from the site of the BIG EAST Championship.
The victor moves on to face either Connecticut or Louisville in the BIG EAST Championship on Sunday afternoon at noon.