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Villanova, Delaware & Rider all fall in first round of NCAA Tournament

Wildcats lost 2-0 to Akron in their first ever NCAA appearance, Delaware blanked by Providence and Rider shut down by Brian Wright and Vermont

Senior forward Padraic McCullaugh played his final game in a Villanova uniform on Thursday
Matt Ralph

Villanova’s first ever NCAA Tournament appearance was a struggle in Akron, Ohio on Thursday night in a 2-0 loss to the nationally ranked Zips.

Seattle Sounders Academy alum Nick Hinds, who recently moved from left back to attacking mid, led the Zips with a goal in each half after missing a sitter that would have opened the scoring earlier. Hinds has four goals and an assist in his last three games for a team that’s now won five straight after a 3-2-2 October.

While the Wildcats were under heavy pressure, the offense never really got going. Philadelphia Union Academy grad Zach Zandi (West Chester, Pa.) had both of the team’s only shots on the night as the home crowd and gap in postseason experience - Akron was a College Cup team a year ago - proved too much to overcome.

Nova goalkeeper Will Steiner did what he’s done all season against tough offenses though, making six saves on the night to keep alive the hope of a rally. As a team, the Zips outshot Villanova 20-2 on the night.

It was always going to be tough for Villanova, a bubble team that made it into the tournament based on their strength of schedule, but the team is young - head coach Tom Carlin started four freshman, a sophomore and three juniors on Thursday - and no longer a stranger to the biggest stage in college soccer.

Losses by Delaware and Rider on Thursday put the greater Philadelphia region on the outside looking in for the remainder of the tournament. Top-seeded Maryland are the only team within two hours of Philadelphia left standing. The next closest teams are Albany and Syracuse.

The Blue Hens surrendered goals in each half to Brendan Reardon and Julian Gressel and were shut out 2-0 at Providence despite outshooting the Friars 18-13.

Goalkeeper Todd Morton (West Chester, Pa.) made five saves in the match while Guillermo Delgado and Jaime Martinez led the team with four shots apiece in their final games for the Hens. The offense was shut out for just the third time this season.

Rider’s season came to an end Thursday night in large part because of the play of one of the most underrated forwards in college soccer.

Brian Wright accounted for all four of Vermont’s goals with a hat trick and an assists and by the time the Broncs broke through with an Arthur Herpreck in the 89th minute, the game was already too far out of reach. Wright, a senior from Ontario, has 14 goals and 11 assists on the season, 39 and 24 for his career.

The Catamounts could have had still more in the game, but for Rider goalkeeper Ryan Baird’s 12 saves. The four goals allowed were the most by the Rider defense this season, which conceded more than one goal in a game only four other times.