FH: Villanova suffers offensive drought at ‘Cuse

Alex Gallucci

The field hockey team traveled to Syracuse, N.Y., on Oct. 24, to take on the Orange, which currently boasts an impressive record of 16-1 (4-1 Big East). In their most difficult matchup this year, the Wildcats’ usually strong offense was held scoreless in a 5-0 loss.

The Orange maintained a strong offensive output throughout the game, attempting 15 shots in each half. Villanova was held to just three shot attempts, all of which came in the second half. The domiance was not rare for Syracuse; they lead the Big East in scoring margin, shots per game, goals per game and goals allowed per game.

“Syracuse is a good team,” senior co-captain Sam Coveleski said. “There is a reason they are ranked so high, and that is because they know how to put up the numbers.”

The Orange took an early lead in the fifth minute of the game as Shannon Taylor found the net for an unassisted goal. Just 11 minutes later, Taylor slipped another one by sophomore goalkeeper Maura McCormick, making it a 2-0 game. An unassisted goal by Lindsey Conrad increased Syracuse’s lead to three.

Syracuse boasts a powerful offense with its players leading every offenseive category in the conference. Taylor’s 25th goal of the year is the most of any player in the Big East. Conrad’s conversion was her 16th of the year, good for third best in the conference. She is followed closely behind by teammate Martina Loncarica who is in fourth with 15 goals during the ’08 campagin.

Just as the first half drew to a close, the Orange saw a scoring opportunity on a penalty stroke, but an impressive save by McCormick helped hold the lead at three.

The Orange started the second half aggressively, as Conrad scored her second goal just two minutes into the period to make it 4-0. Conrad’s goal was followed by a third from Taylor.

The powerful Syracuse defense consistently shut down any offensive attempts by the Wildcats. In the first half, the Wildcats were unable to take any shots on goal, and the three combined attempts by sophomores Meredith Sabatini and Dana Ramsden in the second half failed to get by the Orange defense. The 5-0 loss marked a season-high for goals permitted by Villanova; however, the Wildcat defense has allowed only 24 goals in 17 games this season. In the face of the Orange’s offensive power, McCormick still recorded eight saves to raise her season total to 83.

The Wildcats’ loss will keep them out of the Big East Conference tournament – a disappointment for a team that had a number of early-season victories.

“It was a difficult loss because it was really the door slamming in our faces keeping us out of the conference tournament,” Coveleski said. “We knew that losing to Providence and Lousiville – both games we could and should have won – made our conference journey an uphill battle. Defeating Syracuse was our last chance to put ourselves in the postseason, and we didn’t perform. This is a great shame, especially for a team like ours, [which] truly, player for player, has the talent and the knowledge to have won every game this season. Unfortunately, ‘good tries’ and ‘close calls’ aren’t recorded in the stat books.”

The loss marks the second straight loss for ‘Nova, which dropped a contest with Princeton last week. The Wildcats fell to below .500 in conference play with a 2-3 record.

Despite the loss, Villanova holds the advantage over Syracuse in field hockey, with an 16-7 all-time lead over the Orange on the turf.

The Wildcats will play their last regular season game against No. 7 Connecticut at Villanova Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m.