09 Dec 2021 | 11:03 | Football
VILLANOVA, Pa. – It was a near-perfect ending to a memorable “Senior Day”.
Anthony Cousins Jr,. jumped in from the left side to knock home the rebound of a shot taken by sophomore Luke Pompliano at 86:57 to lift Villanova past Seton Hall 1-0 in the regular season finale for both teams Wednesday afternoon at the Higgins Soccer Complex.
The victory locks down a berth in the six-team BIG EAST Conference Tournament which begins Saturday. It will be Villanova’s first appearance in the event since 2016. Its opponent and destination will be determined Wednesday night after the rest of the league completes the regular season.
The Wildcats improved to 10-6-1 overall, 5-4-1 BIG EAST. The win moved head coach Tom Carlin into a tie with his former boss Larry Sullivan as the Villanova men’s program all-time wins leader (114).
Seton Hall, which was eliminated from postseason consideration last weekend dropped to 6-8-3 overall, 2-7-1 BIG EAST.
“We were playing a team that was already out of the playoffs,” noted Carlin. “You see it all the time in professional sports. When a team has nothing to lose, it’s not necessarily an easy thing to deal with. I thought our possessions were good, our spacing was good but we didn’t create enough quality chances. We were hoping that didn’t catch up with us.
“We needed a big save from Carson (Williams), as usual. But we got it done.”
On a sun-splashed afternoon on West Campus with a brisk breeze and temperatures hovering near 50 degrees, the first 45 minutes offered few scoring chances. The two teams combined for just six total shots, three by each side.
That changed, however, after intermission. Seton Hall ratcheted up its pressure, ultimately generating 14 shots in the period. Villanova mustered eight of its own as each team looked for an opening to find what figured to be a pivotal goal.
Carson Williams was sharp throughout. The native of Plano, Tex., who was honored along with classmates Kent Dickey, Dylan Middlebrook, and Seidu Shamsudeen in a pregame “Senior Day” ceremony, made all five of his saves in the second half and several were spectacular.
“This was a playoff game for us,” noted Carlin. “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.
“We willed our way through it though.”
The decisive play began on the right side with junior Lyam MacKinnon finding Pompliano across the top of the 18-yard box with a pass. Pompliano let go of a blistering shot that Seton Hall goalkeeper Hannes Ronholmen saved initially. But the rebound leaked out to the keeper’s right and Cousins raced in from his left back slot to drill the ball inside the post to put the Wildcats in front.
Villanova closed out the final 3:03 without surrendering another shot.
“For AJ to get that goal in a special moment like this is just incredible,” Carlin stated. “It’s incredible for him. We’ve been talking about getting him forward. He saved the best for last.”