Loyden, Sepich notch top honors



Kaitlin Santanna

The Villanovan’s Female and Male Athlete of the Year Awards go to two competitors who have made history in their respective sports this past year. One Wildcat calls the field her home and has come to make history in her time between the pipes. The other divides his time between life on land and in water and over the past season has come to shine on both terrains.

The Villanovan is proud to name the ’07-’08 Female Athlete of the Year Award to Jillian Loyden. After taking a year as a redshirted freshman, Loyden has been the starting goaltender for the women’s soccer team since the ’04 season. Since her first season, Loyden has consistently brought a level of play to the field that has been unmatched by any keeper in the Big East.

Her records and honors are numerous and almost impossible to list, but here are a few to give you a taste of Loyden’s brilliance over the past four seasons: She is the first player ever in conference history to be a three-time Big East Goalkeeper of the Year. Loyden holds the school career records for victories (48) and shutouts (37, putting her ahead of all active Big East goalies and second in conference history) and minutes played (7,542:04, 10th all time in NCAA Division I history). Since 2006 Loyden has more solo shutouts than goals allowed.

Saving the best for last, Loyden clinched several of her records as a senior in 2007, her best season to date. This past season she posted 12 solo shutouts while boasting an unbelievable .520 goals against average (the lowest average in the team’s 25-year history as a varsity sport) and a .891 save percentage. Loyden tied the program record with the fewest goals allowed in a season, only allowing 11 goals all year.

Led by Loyden, the ‘Cats finished the ’07 season with a record of 11-4-6, the fourth winning season that the goalkeeper led at Villanova. Assisted by Loyden’s excellent play over the past four years, the women’s soccer team has come to be known as one of the best defensive squads among all NCAA teams.

Making an equal impact on the history of Villanova sports is the Male Athlete of the Year, although in a much different way. Junior Bill Sepich has transformed Villanova Athletics by qualifying for the Big East Championships in not one but two different sports.

Sepich’s first two years at Villanova were not easy ones, however. After suffering various injuries from the increasing physical demands of collegiate track distances, last year track and field Head Coach Marcus O’Sullivan suggested that Sepich turn to the pool for conditioning to ease the stress that the track has on the body. While conditioning, swimming and diving Head Coach Rick Simpson noticed Sepich’s talents. As the saying goes, the rest was history.

An agreement between O’Sullivan and Simpson allowed Sepich to compete on both teams. Sepich competed in four events last year and became an official member of the swimming and diving team for the ’07-’08 season.

Sepich’s first big moment on the swim team came just over two months ago, when his time of 55.1 seconds in the 100-meter backstroke in a dual meet against Georgetown qualified him for the Big East championships. After two frustrating years with track, Sepich was determined to qualify for the Big East championships this season.

Sepich and his coaches soon learned that qualifying in both sports had not been accomplished in recent history by a college athlete, Big East Olympic Sports Commissioner Jim Siedliski told the Burlington County Times.

Sepich finally accomplished his three-year-long goal on Jan. 27, when he qualified in the 1,000-meter run at Penn State. His time of 2:29.41 became his new personal best by over four seconds. Now qualified in two sports, Sepich doubled his goal of attending the Big East championships.

The possibility of competing in two championships almost came to an end, however, when Sepich discovered that the conference championships for both sports were going to be held on the same weekend, Feb. 20-23, but in separate locations. However, a stroke of good fortune kept the junior’s dream alive. After the track site had been moved from the traditional location in Syracuse to the Bronx, the locations for the two Championships were only 31 miles apart.

Sepich was also fortunate that his events were held on different days. On Feb. 21 and 22, Sepich swam in the Big East swimming and diving championships. He swam in two relays for Villanova – the 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard medley – as well as the 100-yard backstroke. Sepich then traveled from East Meadow, N.Y., to the Bronx, N.Y., on Feb. 23 for the track and field championships at the famous Armory facility. Already entering the day having swum in three events over the past two days, this athlete competed in 1,000-meter run on Saturday.

The feat that Sepich accomplished over the season makes him the perfect candidate for the Villanovan’s Male Athlete of the Year. After working the kinks out of balancing two sports at once and reestablishing his place in the pool, Sepich will be an athlete to watch next year.