Several Wildcat teams show promise



Kaitlin Santanna

There’s nothing like a fresh fall season to bring life back into the summer months vacant of collegiate athletic activity. Besides clearing the slate from the previous year, the most entertaining part of the new school year in sports is seeing how teams will deal with the loss of their key senior players and how the new freshmen will help to fill this void. Each of the fall sports has recruited and feature freshmen who will have a lasting impact during their tenure at Villanova. Below is a bit of what to expect from Villanova’s exciting fall lineup.

Field Hockey

The graduation of Stephanie Campbell makes field hockey one of two fall women’s sports that lost a key senior. Campbell was second on the team in scoring, putting up six goals and 12 assists during the ’07 season. She was also named to the All-Big East Second Team after finishing 10th in the conference in assists.

A combination of standout sophomores hope to fill the scoring void. Leading this pack of second-year students is Lauren Wuzzardo, who led the team in scoring last season with 13 goals in only 18 games. Wuzzardo was named to many honorary squads after her stellar play last season, including the Big East All-Rookie Squad and the All-Big East Second Team. The Big East preseason coaches’ poll has Villanova’s field hockey team ranked fifth in the conference, but if Wuzzardo and her classmates Maggie Befort, Melissa Gonzale and Nicole Youman put out the type of season they did last year, this squad will be dominant in the conference.

Men’s Soccer

Over on West Campus at the Villanova Soccer Complex, the men’s soccer team looks to improve on a 10-9-1 record from 2007 in a season that concluded with a first-round loss in the Big East Championships to West Virginia. Leading the Wildcats in 2008 will be first-year Head Coach Tom Carlin who was promoted from his assistant position after the departure of Larry Sullivan.

With the return of the standout junior midfielder Mike Seamon, an All-Big East Second Team selection in ’07, to the Main Line, Villanova hopes to have a more successful season with a more experienced front line. Seamon finished his sophomore campaign with nine goals, first on the Wildcats and fifth in the conference.

Along with bringing back old talent, the men’s soccer team has some exciting additions as well. Sophomore midfielder Brian Hooper has just joined the Wildcats after spending his first season with Virginia Tech. Last season, Hooper was named one of the 100 freshmen to watch by Soccer America.

In hopes of climbing the Big East rankings, Villanova has added a powerful freshman class that was recently ranked No. 34 in the nation by College Soccer News. Among the newcomers for Villanova are forward Will Ogden and midfielder Stephen Paresi, who both hail from the New York state champion and perennial soccer power Byram Hills High School in Armonk, N.Y.

Women’s Soccer

The women’s soccer team required a huge makeover from last season’s squad. It lost record-setting goalkeeper Jillian Loyden. Loyden, an All-Big East First Team member and Big East Goalkeeper of the Year during her last three seasons at Villanova, finished fourth in the nation in save percentage in 2007.

The Wildcats will also have to deal with the loss of their longtime coach. John Byford, previously the head coach at Loyola College (Md.), will be replacing Ann Clifton, who resigned. Clifton coached the ‘Cats for 11 seasons, leading the team to NCAA tournaments in five of the last seven years and winning seasons during the past nine campaigns.

The top returning player to watch for the ‘Cats is junior defender Kelly Eagan, an All-Big East First Team selection in 2007. The St. James, N.Y., native has started all 43 games in her career; Villanova has notched 29 shutouts during that time span. To emphasize Eagan’s importance for the team, she was named the Big East Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in August.

Similar to the men’s team, the women have brought in a qualified freshman class to help make the transition easier. Villanova brought in a rookie class that was ranked fifth in the Mid-Atlantic Region and 30th overall in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine. Leading the six-person class is national recruit Kathryn Nagy from Bellmore, N.Y. Nagy was the captain and MVP of a St. Anthony’s squad that went 19-0 en route to a CHSAA Championship.

Women’s Volleyball

As the lone tenant of the Jake Nevin Field House, the women’s volleyball team looks to improve on an impressive 17-12 season in 2007 that placed fourth in the Big East. The finish was Villanova’s best since 2003.

Reigning Big East Coach of the Year Josh Steinbach has the tough task of replacing two ‘Cats who were among the best in the country and named to the All-Big East First Team in 2007. Steinbach will have to fill the shoes of the graduated conference kills leader Alona Cherkez and the versatile Kacy Sellers.

Junior setter Chelsea Graman is among the returners. During her sophomore season, Graman finished third in the Big East in assists with 48. Graman will look to dish to senior outside hitter Dana Tartazky, who finished third on the team in kills in 2007.

The volleyball team has continued the trend of top-tier recruiting and added a group of promising freshman. Kim Maroon, an All-State defensive player from Virginia Beach, Va., will look to compete for the starting libero spot. Kara Chatham, an accomplished club player from Newport Beach, Calif., fills out the last roster spot as an outside hitter.