Men's Soccer Punches Ticket to Big East Tourney

The Wildcats qualified for the Big East tourney for the first time since 2016.

Villanova men’s soccer clinched a spot in the Big East tournament Wednesday afternoon with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Seton Hall. Junior defender Anthony Cousins Jr. tucked away a rebound off a shot from sophomore forward Luke Pompliano in the 87th minute for the lone goal of the match, clinching a trip to the Big East tourney for the first time since 2016.

The seniors on the team, keeper Kent Dickey, midfielder Dylan Middlebrook, forward Seidu Shamsudeen and keeper Carson Williams, were all honored pre-game as a part of a “Senior Day” ceremony, but the focus was on making sure this game was not their last in a Villanova uniform. The Wildcats knew going in that all they needed was a win over Seton Hall to secure their place, regardless of other results. 

The first half of the game was largely uneventful. The teams combined for just six shots in the opening 45, three from each side. The match livened up in the second half, as Seton Hall applied pressure, creating 14 shots in the period. Williams had to be sharp to keep things level, as he made five saves, all in the second half. 

"We needed a big save from Carson [Williams], as usual,” head coach Tom Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. “But we got it done."

Carlin said that the team approached the match as the first in its playoff run, even though there was a chance for the Wildcats to claim a spot with a loss or draw. 

"This was a playoff game for us," Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. "The reality was that if we had lost, there was a chance that we weren't going to move on. I told the guys at halftime that this was their first legitimate playoff game. I thought we were a little nervous at times, looked a little tentative early.”

While the ‘Cats were able to generate some offensive pressure through the latter 45, it wasn’t anything substantial until the 87th. Junior forward Lyam MacKinnon sent a ball in from the right to the feet of Pompliano, who ripped a shot at the frame that Pirates keeper Hannes Ronholmen was able to deflect away. Cousins raced in from the left and collected the loose ball and slotted it away for his first goal in the blue and white. 

"For AJ to get that goal in a special moment like this is just incredible," Carlin said to Villanova Athletics. "It's incredible for him. We've been talking about getting him forward. He saved the best for last."

The Wildcats were able to prevent the Pirates from getting another shot away in the remaining three minutes, securing the victory and a spot in the postseason tournament. The win was also Carlin’s 114th for the Wildcats, tying him with Larry Sullivan for most wins in program history. 

After the results from around the conference shook out, the ‘Cats placed fifth with 16 points in the Big East. The Wildcats were tied on points with Creighton and Butler but lost the fourth seed to the Bluejays because of a head-to-head loss earlier in the season. 

The ‘Cats will travel to Omaha to take on the Bluejays on Saturday, Nov. 6. The teams will battle for a shot at top seeded and nationally fourth ranked Georgetown in the tournament semifinals on Nov. 11.