After mixed results in their first five games, the Villanova Wildcats are starting to hit their stride, picking up their second straight win and a crucial victory in their Big East opener on Saturday.
Playing in front of a packed crowd on a sunny day - their first of the campaign after several soggy affairs at Higgins Soccer Complex - Villanova went down early on a Grant Owens goal. The redshirt junior, a transfer from Saint Louis, got on the end of a Connor Alba delivery in the box to score his second of the season.
Owens’ goal was one of several chances the Golden Eagles had in the first half, but a spark from substitute Theo Quartey helped the home side turn the tide. His goal in the 33rd minute cleaning up a rebound off a Christopher Bared shot leveled the score and he later sealed the win with another strike in the 86th minute.
Quartey’s first came just three minutes after entering the match.
“I was really excited to get in the game and make an impact right away,” said Quartey, a freshman from Ghana whose three goals for the season are tied for the team lead. “I’m feeling good right now.”
His second was off another rebound from a shot by junior Zach Zandi.
Villanova kept the momentum going after the break with long periods of possession, but didn’t have much to show for their efforts beyond a couple penalty shouts in the box until sophomore Jack Gilliam checked into the game in the 72nd minute.
Two minutes later he collected a ball in the box from Lucas Hodges and fired home a goal to the near post for the first of his career.
“I knew what I wanted to do and what my job description was coming on,” Gilliam said. “I’m just happy it kind of worked out the way we planned it.”
The loss was the fifth of the season for Marquette, which fell to 0-5-1 on the season while Villanova won their second straight to improve to 4-3-0.
“It sets the tone,” Villanova head coach Tom Carlin said of the win. “You go through all that non-conference stuff to get ready for this day.”
The crowd - near capacity - on an 82 degree and sunny day helped create an electric atmosphere.
“These kids play for that kind of atmosphere,” Carlin said. “That’s fun and for us it needs to be fun. We need to enjoy the hard work and we need to enjoy the process and crowds like that make it easier.”
Villanova returns to Higgins Soccer Complex on Tuesday for their first Philly Soccer Six match of the season against Saint Joseph’s on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Marquette returns home for a Big East match against Seton Hall on Saturday.