by John Maza
Junior goalkeeper Andrew Weakly rarely gets rattled. But that’s not to say he doesn’t feel the pressure.
Villanova was outshot 16-9 over the first 90 minutes of their match against Big East rival Creighton on Saturday. However, a pair of key saves by Weakly late in the game and solid defense kept the Wildcats in the match.
With 32 seconds remaining in the first overtime, senior forward Dylan Renna’s shot was blocked by Creighton goalkeeper Alex Bolowich.
Bolowich claims a 0.97 goals against average this season and has accumulated 29 saves, in helping Creighton remain one of the toughest defenses in the nation, ranked at number 23 nationally in save percentage (.0828).
However, Bolowich’s deflection pushed the ball back in front of the net, allowing Renna to collect the rebound, calmly placing it in the back of the net, silencing the home crowd.
The win was Villanova’s third in a row and lifted the Wildcat’s above .500 for the first time this season at 7-6-1 overall, improving their Big East record to 2-3-0.
“Renna kept his composure and finished it for us,” said Head Coach Tom Carlin to reporters after the game.
However, it was the strong defensive play by Weakly that allowed Villanova to stay competitive late. Despite his 1.47 goals against average, Weakly has accumulated 59 saves, starting in 12 of the Wildcat’s 13 matches this season.
Both teams failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities around the 9:28 mark, putting a great deal of pressure on both keepers.
Freshman forward Padraic McCullaugh led Villanova’s surge, sending a header towards the net that went wide in the 93rd minute. Two minutes later, the Wildcat’s were back on the attack, after sophomore midfielder Chris Hill forced Bolowich to make a diving save, preserving the match 0-0.
But Creighton would answer back with a strong attack of their own in the 97th minute, putting the pressure back on Weakly one more time.
Deflecting the header away from the net, Weakly watched as his teammates pushed the ball down the field, and finished off Creighton following Renna’s goal.
“Weakly made three huge saves and to win a game like this you need to have that,” Carlin said to reporters. “We were very good defensively all night and Weakly was there when we needed him.”
The shutout was Weakly’s third of the season, and Villanova’s third in a row after Freshman goalkeeper Mike Barr earned one in Tuesday’s victory over Lehigh.
The match left Creighton fans speechless.
Villanova’s 1-0 victory on Saturday evening, at Morrison Stadium was the first time that the Blue Jays have lost at home since Sept. 22, 2012 against St. Louis 3-1. During that time, Creighton went undefeated in 12 straight home matches (11-0-1).
In addition, it was the Blue Jay’s first Big East loss of the season and their first conference loss inside Morrison Stadium in almost three years, dating back to Nov. 6, 2010 in a 2-1 loss against Bradley.
A win in a hostile environment is because of many factors; however, as Coach Carlin noted, tough road losses earlier this season against New Mexico and Seton Hall prepared the Wildcat’s for their Big East foe.
“That’s why we went to New Mexico,” said Carlin to reporters after the match. “We tested ourselves early and have learned what it takes to get a result in a tough environment against a quality opponent.”
“We did what we had to do. We knew they would possess the ball and that we would spend more time defending than we usually do. I thought we played well as a unit and limited their chances. I told our guys that this is an incredible win but there’s more out there for us than just this game.”