After playing five games over a span of two weeks on the road, the women’s soccer team finally returned home last weekend for a pair of matches against Big East opponents. The squad failed to pick up a goal in the two games, notching a scoreless tie against Pittsburgh Friday before falling to nationally ranked West Virginia by a score of 1-0 Sunday afternoon.
Although a set of torrential downpours slowed the conditions on the field before Friday’s game against Pittsburgh, Villanova did not let the showers hinder its play. The Wildcat offense came out firing on all cylinders and created offensive chances early. Despite a shot that bounced off the crossbar by senior Nikki Mabery and a scramble in front of the goal after a corner kick, Villanova was unable to find the back of the net. The home team went on to dominate the Panthers in the shot category, holding a 30-7 advantage at the game’s end, including a 9-0 margin during the two overtime periods.
While Villanova held the offensive advantage throughout the match, Pittsburgh was not without scoring opportunities of its own. The ‘Nova defense held the Panthers at bay, however, in yet another strong defensive outing. Goalkeeper Jillian Loyden posted her 35th career shutout in the match, making three saves during the game. Loyden also surpassed the 7,000 career minute mark between the pipes during the game, becoming only the 19th goalkeeper in NCAA Division I history to do so.
Villanova’s defense was called on to be resilient once again Sunday afternoon against No. 25 West Virginia. Loyden was forced to make a season-high eight saves in the match, and defenders Kelly Eagan and Laura Sylvester led the defensive effort. Regardless of the strong showing from the backline, the Mountaineers scored the game’s only goal 49 minutes into the match. Villanova created some good scoring chances in both the opening and closing minutes of the game but was unable to put one past the West Virginia goalie. The loss marked the Wildcats’ first loss at home.
Villanova enters this weekend’s play with its final two games of the season. Both games hold huge postseason implications, with the Wildcats sitting on the cusp of the Big East National Division standings. Five teams from each division are eligible for the playoffs. Currently, Villanova is in a three-way tie for the fifth and final postseason slot with 10 points. The first and second spots in the National Division have been secured by Notre Dame and Louisville, respectively. However, the No. 3 team, Georgetown, currently has 12 points, while the fourth-place squad of Rutgers has 11. Villanova takes on Louisville tomorrow at 4 p.m. It then plays Cincinnati, one of the teams the ‘Cats are tied with in the standings, to finish out the season on Sunday. Both of these games will be played at home.