‘Cats receive taste of own medicine

Kaitlin Santanna

Despite a game overflowing with offensive chances and defensive prowess, the women’s soccer team was eliminated from the Big East Tournament with a 1-0 loss to host Marquette University on Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals.

Marquette and Villanova exchanged control of the momentum though the opening minutes of the game. The Wildcats’ best scoring opportunity came when junior Nikki Mabery eluded a defender in the box and got off a hard shot on goal. However, her shot was stopped by the Marquette goalkeeper, Laura Boyer.

Boyer’s save switched the energy to the Golden Eagles, who scored the only goal of the game moments later. Despite an offensive drive in the waning minutes of the game, Villanova was unable to find the back of the net. After being awarded a pair of corner kicks in the game’s final five minutes, a shot by freshman Erin Byrnes was blocked by a Marquette defender. Although forward Nicole Coia was well-positioned for the rebound, Boyer was once again up to the task, making the save and carrying her team to the Big East semifinals. The Golden Eagles will take on Notre Dame at the University of Connecticut in the semifinal match.

Both teams displayed a strong defensive game. ‘Nova keeper Jillian Loyden and Boyer each made two saves on the afternoon, but Marquette out-shot the ‘Cats 7-5.

The NCAA Tournament status of the Wildcats now rests in the hands of the tournament committee, who must award Villanova an at-large bid into the competition.

While only 34 teams in the tournament receive a bid, the Wildcats present a strong case. The main factor in determining at-large bids is called the Ratings Percentage Index, which is a formula used by the NCAA Committee to establish a team’s overall strength. In the past, the formula has given 50 percent of its weight to a team’s win-loss record, 25 percent to the strength of schedule and 25 percent to the schedule of its opponents.

The Wildcats finished the 2006 regular season with a program-tying record of 15 wins (15-2-2 overall), marking the eighth consecutive season with double-digit wins. The only two losses of the year were against teams nationally-ranked in the top 10. Both of these teams, West Virginia and Notre Dame, were the No. 1 seed in their respective Big East divisions, and the loss to West Virginia came in double overtime. Throughout the season, the ‘Cats have outscored their opponents by a 34-8 margin and have posted 15 shutouts.

The committee will also examine a team’s road record versus its home record. The Wildcats are strong in this area as well, sporting a 4-1-1 record on the road and a 9-1-1 record at the West Campus Soccer Complex.

Villanova also has history on its side. The Wildcats have appeared in the NCAA Tournament four of the past five seasons and were granted an at-large bid three of those four times. Last season was the first time since 2001 that Villanova did not participate in the tournament, though the 2006 team recorded five more wins and three less losses than the 2005 squad (10-5-4).

The NCAA Tournament bids will be announced on Monday afternoon.