Villanova Hands BC Men’s Soccer Its First Loss

Maximillian Schulze-Geisthovel is forcing people to remember his name—and pronounce it correctly, too.

For the fourth time in four games, the 6-foot-2 senior transfer from Germany came off the bench and scored, this time an equalizer in the 51st minute that brought Boston College men’s soccer even with Villanova. But unfortunately for the Eagles (3-1-0), the lone goal wouldn’t be enough in their last match before ACC play, as the Wildcats (1-2-0) snuck past the No. 11 team in the country, 2-1, thanks to an 87th-minute bullet off the boot of freshman Jacob Anderson.

After a shaky start, BC emerged from halftime firing on all cylinders. Behind strong play from midfielders Raphael Salama, Callum Johnson, and Zeiko Lewis, the Eagles switched the ball seamlessly and coordinated high-speed assaults on the Nova back line. Together, they racked up 19 shots and earned 12 corner kicks. In comparison, the Wildcats managed just seven shots and three corners.

Yet Villanova capitalized on its few chances and didn’t squander its lucky bounces. In the 32nd minute, a mess in the box ultimately left Padraic McCullaugh with the ball and a wide open look at goal. The senior, who is listed at 6-foot-6, slipped one past goalkeeper Cedric Saladin on the ground for a 1-0 advantage.

After Schulze-Geisthovel’s header to begin the second half, BC was hungry for a game-winner to maintain its perfect record. In search of the perfect combination on the pitch, head coach Ed Kelly experimented with some different lineups to kickstart the offense. He tried moving Lewis out wide, where he used his speed to connect with Trevor Davock and Ike Normesinu on the wings. Kelly even moved forward Simon Enstrom back to attacking midfielder in an attempt to mesh his play with that of Schulze-Geisthovel.

“Going out wide isn’t really a problem for me,” Lewis said. “I know my role is to get [Enstrom] the ball for flick-ons so that we can keep the momentum moving forward.”

No matter what blend of talent Kelly inserted onto the pitch, the Eagles continued to impress. The passing was crisp, the tackles were unyielding, and, most importantly, BC forced Nova to play at its tempo of choice. Johnson picked up his third assist in as many games, and has quickly won the job of taking set pieces for the team. Fintan Devlin, filling in for the injured Len Zeugner, anchored a defense that looked impenetrable for most of the game. And Lewis is still the most electric playmaker on the field, drawing “Oooohs” from the crowd after every dazzling spin move and dropping jaws with his vision-defying through balls.

The fact that the Eagles dominated every statistical category except for the most important one doesn’t make the loss any easier to swallow. But after the defeat, Kelly was surprisingly—and rightfully—optimistic about his young squad.

“I thought we did really, really well. Somedays you just have to say, ‘Hey, we were a little unlucky,’” Kelly said. “Wipe it clean, and start again. It’d be nice to go undefeated but that’s just not realistic.”

Perhaps it’s the kind of patient demeanor that comes with coaching for three decades, or maybe it’s because the proof in this team’s ability is right there in last season’s Elite Eight run.

“We didn’t hit our stride until halfway through the season last year,” Kelly said. “So it’s just a matter of getting everything sorted out. It takes time to make it work.”

In a few weeks, BC could lay claim to one of the best young cores in the country, a fast-developing midfield, and a sturdy upperclassmen duo of captains in Zeugner and Lewis. But when it comes to scoring, Schulze-Geisthovel can’t be the only one—and don’t point right at Enstrom, either. This attack needs to be as balanced as the rest of the team, and that means Davock and Normesinu finding the back of the net, as well.

Otherwise, when Kelly & Co. host Duke for the ACC opener next Saturday, a few unlucky bounces could prove the difference between a win and a loss, just like they did today.

Featured Image by Josh Mentzer / Heights Staff

September 5, 2016