Women’s soccer continues defensive excellence



Junior Kelly Eagan was named the Big East Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and Villanova was chosen to finish fifth in the National Division in a poll of the league’s head coaches. The poll results were released on Aug. 13 as teams were in the midst of preseason training.

Eagan is a two-time first-team All-Big East selection and the leading returner to the Wildcats’ backline. In her two seasons as a starting center back for the team, Villanova has recorded 29 shutouts while surrendering just 22 goals to the opposition. Last season, the Wildcats allowed their opponents an average of just five shots on goal per contest.

“This award shows that the other head coaches in the league hold Kelly in very high esteem,” Head Coach John Byford said. “When a student-athlete receives an honor that is voted on all around the league, it recognizes that what they are doing on the field is pretty special.”

In addition to her contributions on the defensive end, Eagan has also made her presence felt on the offensive side of the field. She has four career goals, and all have been game-winners, including three that came as the only goal scored in 1-0 victories.

As a team, Villanova was picked to finish fifth in the National Division with 69 points in the preseason poll. Reigning league champion West Virginia and runner-up Notre Dame were chosen to finish atop the American and National Divisions, respectively.

The Wildcats return 17 letterwinners from last season, in which the squad posted at least 10 wins and a winning record for the ninth consecutive year. Villanova also adds to the fold a recruiting class of six freshmen that was ranked No. 30 in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine. The Wildcats will be vying for a return trip to the NCAA tournament this season after being a part of the field in five of the past seven seasons.

Notre Dame received 15 first-place votes and 120 points in the preseason poll and was followed by Louisville (one first-place vote, 96 points), Georgetown (87) and Rutgers (86). Rounding out the division were Seton Hall (48), Cincinnati (36) and DePaul (26).

In the American Division, West Virginia received nine first-place votes and 114 points to narrowly beat out Connecticut (seven first-place votes, 111 points). The pair was followed by Marquette (90), St. John’s (77), USF (65), Providence (38), Syracuse (38) and Pittsburgh (35).

The other individual award winners included Preseason Offensive Player of the Year (Brittany Bock, Notre Dame) and Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year (Stephanie Labbe, Connecticut).

Joining Eagan on the Preseason All-Big East Team were Greer Barnes, Carolyn Blank, Amanda Cicchini and Deana Everrett (West Virginia), Bock and Kerri Hanks (Notre Dame), Labbe and Elizabeth Eng (Connecticut), Gina DeMaio (Rutgers), Sara Jordan (Georgetown), Katie Kelly (Marquette) and Shannon Smyth (Louisville).

The Wildcats have already lived up to the preseason hype during their first game of the season. Eagan showed that she was able to lead a strong defensive game and the offense sprang to life as Villanova shutout UMBC with a dominating 7-0 victory in their season opener last Sunday afternoon.

The Wildcats look to remain undefeated as they travel to Burlington, Vt., to take on the University of New Hampshire tomorrow.