Men's Soccer Picks Up Crucial Point At Providence

Villanova men’s soccer played 110 minutes against 18th-ranked Providence in the driving rain, scrapping for a 0-0 draw. The deadlock between the two squads could not be broken in two overtimes, resulting in a draw that could prove crucial for the Wildcats in their push for a Big East tournament berth. 

Senior goalkeeper Carson Williams stepped up in a big way throughout the night for the ‘Cats, making seven saves on the Friars through all four periods of play. The entirety of the Wildcats’ defensive unit was forced into action, as Providence applied pressure relentlessly throughout the night. The Friars outshot the ‘Cats, 28-7. 

While junior midfielder Josh Belluz and junior defender Viktor Benediktsson helped to hold down the fort on the defensive end in the first half, the ‘Cats struggled to get anything going offensively. Sophomore midfielder Dominic Cyriacks had the only shot on frame for the Wildcats through the first 45 minutes of play.

The goal frame itself played a major role in the match, as there were multiple shots on the night that clanged off either the crossbar or the posts. 

The first came from freshman forward Balthi Saunders, as he launched a shot that clattered into the left post right after the halftime break. In the 68th minute, Providence forward Davis Smith headed a shot that looked like it was headed for the back of the net, but it hit the frame as well, and Williams was able to collect the ricochet safely. 

Benediktsson and Williams continued to play a big role through the second half and overtime periods, with Benediktsson blocking multiple dangerous shots and Williams making four saves through the second half and overtime periods. 

"Viktor was a warrior tonight," head coach Tom Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. "This was his kind of game. And really our whole back line did a great job – Bonas, Drags and Gray (Ricca). They're hard to deal with, particularly in the air. And Carson came up with some big saves."

The Friars put the ball in the back of the net in the 106th minute, but a handball against Providence negated the goal, allowing the ‘Cats to hold on for four more minutes and escape with the draw. 

The point the ‘Cats earned Saturday night in the rain is essential to their push for a spot in the Big East tournament, as it ties them with four other teams for fourth place. Villanova, Creighton, Butler and Marquette are all deadlocked with 13 conference points. All but Marquette have a game remaining in the season. The Big East tournament will feature the top six teams in the conference, meaning that of the bunch tied for fourth, one, or possibly two with a win from DePaul and losses from the four teams currently tied for fourth on the final matchday, will miss the tournament. 

The Wildcats can avoid a multitude of “what if'” situations by simply beating Seton Hall at home on Wednesday at 3 p.m. A win would secure the ‘Cats a spot in the tournament, and possibly would give the squad a home playoff game for the first time since 2016. The Pirates are at the very bottom of the Big East standings with just seven points, so Seton Hall will only have the motivation to play spoiler and finish their season strong. 

For the ‘Cats, their first round playoff matchup, if they make it, will be one of the four teams currently tied for fourth, DePaul, St. John’s or Providence. Georgetown has locked up a first round bye, and Providence will do so with a win on Wednesday. If Providence cannot pull out a win at Creighton, then St. John’s has the opportunity to jump them in the standings with a win at home against Butler. 

Only time will tell if the ‘Cats get into the tournament, but the point in Providence goes a long way towards that effort.