With a true test coming up against Syracuse this Saturday, we should be able to learn a whole lot about the Villanova Wildcats, not that we havent learned a ton already.
Plain and simple, the team can play. Michael Corrado's crew is 7-1 and sitting at #7/11, depending on which poll you'd rather look at. They have a legit attack unit, their defense is led by long stick midfielder Brian Karalunas and they are coming off a three win week in which they knocked off Pennsylvania and Princeton.
While their average margin of victory is only 3.4, it hasnt matter as of late as we have seen a team grow over the past three years into a team that has a chance to knock off the number one team in the nation on Saturday.
Many people know about their offense, which has found leadership from both the midfield and attack, but they are getting many important wins from the face-off X. Nolan Vihlen and Thomas Croonquist have combined to give the Wildcats a 58 percent face-off advantage. Croonquist is winning 65 percent of the face-offs he takes.
But lets focus back on the offnese which is averaging 11 goals per game. They are led by junior attackman Kevin Cunningham who is averaging four points per game and has 20 goals and 12 assists on the year. Cunningham's side kick in 2011 has been Jack Rice, who has been on fire as of late and is the finisher for the Wildcats. Rice has 18 goals and one assist.
One thing that Coach Corrado can do is run five attack, as well as shift those attack to the midfield and create matchup problems for opposing defense's. Its a threat every coach wishes they could have.
As for the defense, it may be one of the lesser known in the Big East but it has one of the best players in the country. Karalunas, is a groundball machine and causes turnover's left and right. If it wasnt for a guy named Joel White playing the same position in the same conference, Karalunas would be the talk of the town.
The senior from just outside Syracuse, NY, has 35 groundballs and 37 caused turnovers on the season. He is averaging just over four groundballs per game, which is good enough for fourth best in the Big East, ahead of SU's White.
Lastly, Billy Hurley is stopping 50 percent of the shots he faces and his 8.16 goals against average is good for third in the Big East, just behind SU's John Galloway and Notre Dame's John Kemp.
It is no secret this year that Villanova can play. This Saturday will be the true test in my mind to see what the Wildcats are made of. Syracuse comes to Villanova Stadium for the first time ever, a place where 'Nova is 4-0. Dont think that the Wildcats dont remember last years game in the Carrier Dome, in which 13 players scored for the Orange en route to a 20-6 whooping of the Wildcats. Oh and that guy named Cunningham was shut out.
Matchup of the week--John Lade facing off against his former team, heading to Villanova for the first time as a member of the Orange. Lade will square up against Cunningham, a matchup we saw last year in which Cunningham was held scoreless.