WSoc: No. 20 ‘Cats play to lofty expectations in ’07

Tim Richer

One of the University’s most successful teams in 2006 will be at it again thanks to a senior-laden roster that expects to be better than ever. The Wildcats, who return 10 of their 11 starters from last year, will begin their new season as the No. 20-ranked team in the country.

With seven seniors on this year’s squad, Villanova is expected to return to the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in seven years.

“We are going to rely on our seniors this season, and there will be a lot of expectations placed on their shoulders,” Head Coach Ann Clifton told

‘Nova was one of six Big East teams to begin the season in the national Top 30. The others were No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 10 Connecticut, No. 16 Rutgers, No. 18 West Virginia and No. 30 Marquette.

The ’06 ‘Cats, who finished with a 16-4-2 record, advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before being knocked out by Penn State. ‘Nova started its schedule with a bang; it went undefeated in its first 14 games. Its only home loss of the season came to No. 1-ranked Notre Dame.

Leading this year’s squad will be Jillian Loyden, a fifth-year senior from New Jersey. Loyden was named to the preseason watch list for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, an award given out to the top collegiate soccer player in men’s and women’s soccer.

Loyden currently ranks second in Villanova school history in wins and shutouts, with 38 and 25, respectively. Her stellar ’06 season, which included 11 shutouts in 16 victories, earned her the Big East Goalkeeper of the Year Award for the second straight season. Loyden was also named a Preseason First-Team All American, the only Wildcat ever to achieve that honor.

Sophomore defender Kelly Eagan also received preseason accolades as she was named to the Preseason All-Big East team. Eagan, one of the top freshmen in the conference in 2006, was an anchor on the Wildcats defense that allowed only 11 goals all season, the fewest since Villanova started playing varsity soccer in 1982.

The Wildcats will start their ’07 schedule by hosting their own tournament on West Campus. Villanova’s first opponent will be the Lafayette Leopards tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.