Two goals five minutes apart in the first half proved too much for Villanova to overcome as they fell to Providence in the final career home game for six Wildcats on Saturday.
Needing three points to keep alive the hope of postseason, Villanova was able to cut the lead in half through senior Lucas Hodges off a rebound in the 18th minute but a second half free kick from Zach Zandi hit the woodwork and Friars goalkeeper Colin Miller made several key interventions to keep Nova off the board the rest of the way, finishing with seven saves.
“We fought hard,” head coach Tom Carlin said after the game. “They got two goals early and we put ourselves in quite a hole. I like the resilience of the group, I like the fight, we didn’t quit on it.”
Lancaster native Braden Kline set up Danny Griffin for the game’s first goal 11 minutes in when he found Griffin in the box and the sophomore danced around a couple defenders and beat Will Steiner to his right with a sliding shot toward the far post and in. The assist was the first of the season for Kline, a PA Classics alum, to go with a goal, and the second of his career.
Five minutes later the Friars struck again when Brendan Constantine whipped in a cross to Matt DePerro at the near post for a pretty flick that went over Will Steiner’s head and into the back of the net.
Less than two minutes later, Conor Bradley wound up a shot that was blocked and the ball ended up falling to Lucas Hodges for his team-leading sixth of the year.
After threatening to become a shootout, the game settled down after the three goals scored in a six minute stretch, which ultimately favored the visitors as Villanova was unable to capitalize on a sizable advantage in possession and a number of set pieces in the final third.
“They’re just a really good team,” Carlin said of Providence. “We knew what this game was going to be like, we knew it was going to be a back and forth slugfest and that’s what it was. You know, they’re not easy to score on.”
Four seniors - Chris Bared, Miguel Polley, Lucas Hodges and Andreas Bartosinski - were honored before the game. It was also the last home game for fifth-year players Will Steiner and Max Kroschwitz.
“These seniors have been incredible,” Carlin said. “More than just for the program, but for me personally, there is a relationship that we have formed that we will have forever. Just so proud of all of them and their accomplishments in the classroom, community, and on the field. They helped us reach our first NCAA Tournament in school history and that is special and says a lot about them.”
Villanova, which fell to 7-10 overall and 2-6 in the Big East, end their season on the road at Seton Hall on Wednesday. Only the top six teams in the conference standings advance to the postseason. Providence improved to 5-7-4 overall and 2-4-4 in the Big East.