March 10, 2012

No. 12 Villanova Beats Penn on 30-Yarder with :01 Left

from staff reports

Max Hart unleashed a 30-yard underhand shot that got past Penn goalie Brian Feeney with :01 left to give Villanova a one-goal win Saturday at Franklin Field. Wildcats goalie Dan Gutierrez made a save with 11 seconds left and found Hart open near midfield.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com (file)

PHILADELPHIA - It's doesn't get much crazier than this. No. 12 Villanova walked-off with an 8-7 victory over host Penn on Saturday afternoon on a roughly 30-yard winning shot from Max Hart that got past Penn goalie Brian Feeney with :01 left.

After a Quaker timeout with 29 seconds remaining in regulation and the game tied at 7-7, Penn's Rob Fitzpatrick weaved his way through the Villanova defense, taking the probable last shot of regulation. But a point-blank save from senior goalkeeper Dan Gutierrez gave the Wildcats possession with 11 seconds remaining in the game.

Gutierrez then found a cutting Hart - who less than a minute earlier made the game-tying goal with 1:09 on the clock - near midfield, and Hart and took four steps and unleashed an underhand blast that skidded past Feeney. It was the first time Villanova (4-1) led all game, and the Wildcats trailed 6-2 midway through the third quarter.

"I was just calling for the ball from Gutierrez and sprinted up field looking for [Jack] Rice, but no one was open, so I looked at the clock and took a shot and saw the team coming towards me to celebrate. Gutierrez gets a ton of credit for making the pass," Hart said.

Said Gutierrez: "I knew the defense had to step up. I looked up at the clock after the save, Hart was streaking and I just made the pass. It's a good team win as we head into Princeton."

The win marks Villanova's second straight over the Quakers (1-3) after defeating the local rival 9-8 in overtime last year at Villanova Stadium.

Penn looked like they were on the road to victory after opening the four-goal lead midway through the third quarter and holding the Wildcats scoreless for 23:58. Junior Jack Rice (Baltimore, Md.) broke the Villanova scoring drought off a Will Casertano (Millbrook, N.Y.) assist, taking advantage of a one minute, non-releasable Quaker penalty. Just ten seconds later, Hart connected for his first score of the game to close the gap to 6-4 at the end of the third quarter.

Both teams went scoreless for nearly seven minutes to start the fourth stanza before Penn's Zack Losco connected off a Tim Schwalje assist to give Penn a 7-4 lead. Momentum slowly began to shift in favor of the Wildcats when Michael Vigilante (Massapequa, N.Y.) tallied an unassisted score just 30 seconds later. Villanova then capitalized off a Penn turnover with Kevin Cunningham (Garden City, N.Y.) finding an open Casertano to get Villanova to within one at 7-6, and Hart gave Villanova the game-tying score at the 1:09 mark before netting the dramatic game-winner with one second on the clock.

"We fought for the whole game," Villanova coach Mike Corrado said. "A lot of credit goes to our seniors who really stepped up when we went down. It's a great win for our team in the early part of the season, especially against a local rival in Penn."

"Our defense played very well, especially in the second half. John LoCascio and Chris Creighton both had excellent games along with Chris Conroy, Ryan McDonagh, Mark Jackson and Dan Gutiererez. They stepped up, made a great team effort to get a stop at the end of the game and Max Hart made a great individual play to get himself open," said Corrado.

Defensively, senior Chris Creighton grabbed a career-high seven ground balls and four caused turnovers while sophomore John LoCascio (Fairfield, N.J.) also picked up seven ground balls and two caused turnovers for the afternoon. Gutierrez posted five saves for the day while Penn's Feeney made nine stops in the defeat.

Penn had possession a few times down the stretch, but turnovers – both forced and unforced – kept the drama high. After Hart fied the score with 1:09 left, Danny Feeney won the ensuing faceoff for Penn, giving the Quakers what appeared to be the final look. And sure enough, when Fitzpatrick was stuffed as he came around the goal, it looked like this contest was heading for overtime. Instead, Villanova got the rebound of Fitzpatrick's effort which allowed Hart to rip his winning shot.


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