Final words to be spoken Saturday
The Friar Footballers, snugly sandwiched between the pursued West Virginia Mountaineers and the pursuing Georgetown Hoyas, are officially on the clock in their bid for home field in Wednesday’s Big East first round contest.
And with Providence visiting the Mountaineers, two whole points ahead of them (19-17 differential) for third place in the Blue Division, in Saturday night’s regular season finale, there is bound to be multiple breeds of Fall Back for at least one of these three tourney-bound teams.
Last year about this time, West Virginia spoiled PC’s Senior Day with a 1-0 triumph, but did not bar the Friars from pulling in and knocking off Louisville four days later and fast-tracking to the conference final four and their second consecutive NCAA tournament. A pleasurably long way from their winless 2004 campaign back when Ryan Maduro was an ailing, sidelined freshman.
But in Maduro and Co.’s senior campaign, a falter to the Mountaineers could be a little more consequential this time around. The two bye berths have long been tucked into the Notre Dame and Connecticut pockets. So to grab the currently allotted gusto, a win is an absolute must for the Friars to leapfrog their way into third place and line themselves up with the even more ambiguous Red Division’s sixth seed.
On a slightly lower profile, the fifth-place Hoyas, riding a season-peak three-game winning streak heading into their hosting to Notre Dame, have just as much potential to hurdle the Friars for last dibs on hosting privileges with 15 conference points to their credit. And Georgetown’s fellow aspirant juggernaut from the Ocean State knows all too well, based on last Sunday’s 2-2 classic at Glay Field with the mighty Irish, that paper and ink mean squat in the stretch drive.
Tight-D Duel Likely: The Mountaineers, who last year fell to St. John’s in the Big East title game two days after the Friars were blown over by the Red Storm, have built up a quirky 2007 transcript. Out of their first ten conference contests, seventeen total, only once have both participating clubs managed to strike the mesh (a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh October 10). Their goaltending mainstay Zach Johnson, who has labored all but 8:39 of action, has a four game shutout streak working for him, dating back to an October 19 1-0 upset of UConn and has an infinitesimal four total goals against. Johnson is expectably tops among Big East netminders in goals-against, save-percentage, and shutouts.
On the other hand, WVU’s best offensive output has conspicuously come through senior English midfielder Andy Wright, the only kicker to have distributed more than one of his team’s ten goals (3 for him).
The Friars, with their not-so-shabby, though considerably deeper in the leader board, Timothy Murray to bolster them, will try to sick Maduro, fellow five-goal man Jonathan Medcalf, and newly surging rookie Alex Redding on the Everest-like garrison that has propped the Mountaineers to where they are.
Just to chip in a little more into the pot, part of that Mountaineer force is reigning Defensive Player of the Week Andrew Halsell. The Friars counter that with freshman Nick Cianci, complete with a goal, five points, and possible starting privileges, succeeding teammate Redding as the week’s top rookie.
Elsewhere: The Huskies will bank on a little Georgetown magic if they hope to usurp first place from Notre Dame, trailing the Irish by a 24-22 points deficit and closing out the regular season against Seton Hall. The Pirates, recent victims of a Friar overtime triumph and the Mountaineers latest shutout, are the lone team stuck in their spot, strapped into sixth place.
Marquette and Pittsburgh, for all intents and purposes, will have a good friendly Saturday, each having been long buried away from the playoff push.
Out west in the Red fragment, eight points separate top dog St. John’s and seventh-place Rutgers, who are looking at a mouth-watering opportunity to jump Cincinnati, trailing the Bearcats by a single notch as they hook up in Piscataway.
Other Friar Highlights: Field hockey goalkeeper Rachel Chamberlain, fresh off another bestowment of Big East Goalkeeper of the Year, leads the Friars into the conference semi-final against Louisville at 11 AM Saturday. The defending runner-up Friars, if still standing at game’s end, would wait out the showdown between tournament host Syracuse and nemesis Connecticut, three-time conference champion and branders of a 3-1 Friar falter last weekend…The 0-2 swimming and diving squad will provide the only local athletic show this weekend, hosting Fairfield at noon Saturday. It will be their last home meet before a smattering of November road trips and an entire December layoff prolongs their January 19 return when they will undertake Maine.