Women’s Soccer: Wildcats return to winning ways

Kaitlin Santanna

The women’s soccer team began the season on a high note with a pair of 3-0 victories last weekend at the Villanova University Tournament. The Wildcats first dominated Lafayette University Friday afternoon in the season opener and then went on to shut out Virginia Commonwealth Sunday afternoon.

In the opening game versus Lafayette, the offense was running on all cylinders. Outshooting their opponent by a 17-4 margin, the Wildcats put the pressure on early. Despite the presence of the offense, the Leopard defense held Villanova to just one goal in the first half. The only mark of the period came when senior Jenna Gordon fed the ball into the center of the box and classmate Stacia Hartung connected for her first goal of the year.

The Wildcats picked up their offensive prowess in the second half and consequently drew several corner kick opportunities. Senior Kayce Blandford took all nine corners in the half, one of which became the second goal of the game. After Blandford put the ball in play in the 65th minute, junior Erin Hardiman found the back of the net to make the game 2-0. Villanova went on to add one more goal in the final five seconds of the game, as senior Kaley Guthrie netted an unassisted goal to bring the final score to 3-0.

The second and final game of the tournament against Virginia Commonwealth opened with an even first half, with both teams trading scoring opportunities. The ‘Cats scored first, however, as sophomore Kelly Eagan capitalized on a rebound initially headed on goal by freshman Patty Tierney. Eagan’s tally marked her third career goal, all of which have been game winners.

After outshooting its opponent by only a slim 5-4 margin in the first half, Villanova dominated the shot category in the second phase, 7-2. Blandford played a part in each of the two second-period goals. She started out her scoring with a goal 69 minutes into the game. Sophomore Erin Byrnes made a pass to Blandford from the right side, who then shot the ball past Rams goalkeeper Emily Niman. The final goal of the weekend came off a pass provided by Blandford to senior Nikki Mabery, who became the sixth Wildcat to score during the weekend.

Senior goalkeeper Jillian Loyden continued to make Villanova women’s soccer history with the back-to-back wins. Loyden has 40 career wins with the two shutouts in the tournament, breaking the school’s all-time win record and coming within two shutouts of tying the organization’s shutout record.

Blandford’s outstanding performance in the weekend tournament has earned her the Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors. The senior earned four points (one goal and two assists) while leading Villanova’s strong defensive effort throughout the tournament. Blandford also took all 16 of the team’s corner kicks this weekend, several of which led to scoring opportunities. The Wildcat defense was further honored with the naming of Loyden to the weekly Big East honor roll as well.

Villanova starts a stretch of three games in six days starting tomorrow evening. The ‘Cats will play their first road game of the season tomorrow night against Princeton at 7 p.m. before coming home to face Robert Morris Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. Villanova will round off the three-game set Tuesday at home against St. Peter’s College at 4 p.m.