Men's Soccer Makes NCAA Tournament

Villanova men’s soccer has been selected to be a part of the 2021 NCAA College Cup. The ‘Cats received an at-large bid in the field of 48, which was announced live on NCAA.com Monday afternoon. The Wildcats will travel to Burlington to take on the Vermont Catamounts in the first round of the tournament on Nov. 18. The tournament berth is the program’s second all-time, the first coming in the 2016 season.

The Catamounts, who went 13-4-2 this season, upset New Hampshire in the America East championship game, 1-0, to secure their spot in the College Cup. It was easily the most impressive win of the Catamounts’ season, as it was then-sixth ranked UNH’s first loss of the season. 

The Wildcats and the Catamounts have never met in a match but did have two common opponents this year. The Wildcats had two America East foes, Hartford and Albany, on their home schedule. The ‘Cats picked up a 2-1 win against Hartford in late August and dropped a match to Albany, 1-0, in September. The Catamounts beat both Hartford and Albany in conference play at home later in the season, both wins by a 2-0 scoreline. The two squads are fairly evenly matched in terms of RPI, with the Wildcats coming in at 28th and the Catamounts at 30th. 

The tournament is structured so that the top 16 teams receive automatic berths into the second round, while the rest of the teams go unseeded. The tournament selection committee chooses which teams will host the first round games, and the top 16 teams host second round matchups. Of the 16 teams hosting first round games, six have lower RPI rankings than the Wildcats, including the Catamounts. 

“I thought our body of work showed that we were deserving,” head coach Tom Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. “We were kind of on the fence whether we were going to be at home or on the road. Nonetheless, we were excited to see our name up there on the screen. We were close to getting a home game, but I also knew in the back of my mind that we have been better on the road."

The Wildcats have been decisively more effective away from home this season, posting an away record of 6-3-1, logging one more away win than home victory.

The Wildcats played seven matches against teams that made the College Cup this season. The squad went 1-6-1 against those teams, including a 4-0 loss at 12th overall seed Penn State, and two losses to third seeded Georgetown, one in the regular season and one in the Big East tournament. The ‘Cats’ only win against a tournament team came in the Big East tournament, with a 2-1 win over Creighton in Omaha in the quarter final. The Catamounts fared much better against tournament teams, albeit in a much smaller sample size, going 2-0-1 with wins over Princeton and UNH, as well as a regular season draw to UNH. 

The winner of the Thursday match between the Wildcats and the Catamounts will go on to face fourth-seeded Notre Dame in South Bend on Nov. 21. The Fighting Irish won the ACC tournament 2-0 over Duke to secure its place in the tournament, though it likely would have gotten in without the championship win. Notre Dame is fifth in RPI rankings and is 6-4-1 on the year against teams also in the tournament. 

Before the ‘Cats can worry about the Fighting Irish, they first need a result in Burlington. The Catamounts are on a five-match winning streak, while the Wildcats have gone 3-2-1 in their last six.

The Catamounts’ main offensive threats are graduate forward Nacho Lerech and senior midfielder Alex Nagy. Lerech led the team in goals with six over the course of the year, while also accumulating six assists. Nagy scored five times while leading the team in assists with 10. He also had two multi-assist performances. The Catamounts have also had strong goalkeeping this year from senior keeper Nate Silveira, who has a 0.779 save percentage and a goals against average of 0.83. Silveria was named to the America East all-conference first-team and was awarded the conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year award. 

The Wildcats are excited to have the opportunity to continue playing, especially considering that before the season, the ‘Cats were picked to finish 11th in the Big East by the Coaches Poll. 

"This is something we've been working toward with this group of seniors and juniors,” Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. “They've worked so hard. To think about where we've come from 2019, to the Covid year to now, just shows this is a group of resilient young men that put a lot into this. We're excited.”