Soccer team reminds fans of other memorable squad

Justin DiBiase

Much was made of our beloved basketball team’s 10-0 start to last season. However, the 2006 women’s soccer team’s start is arguably even more impressive. With a dominating defense and an above-average offense, this team just does not know how to lose. Through its first 17 games, the team has 14 wins, 1 loss and 2 ties. They have outscored their opponents by an eye-popping 29-3 margin. The only blemish on their outstanding season was a 1-0 heartbreaking double overtime loss to the seventh ranked team in the nation, West Virginia. There are usually not many comparisons drawn between the women’s soccer team and last season’s men’s basketball team, but I see some peculiar parallels between the team’s fast starts:

Nikki Mabery and Randy Foye: Like Mabery, Foye was the leader and the leading scorer for his team on the floor. Both Mabery and Foye are talented long-range shooters. Mabery may also have a professional career ahead of her, if American women’s soccer can find itself a niche in the sports landscape.

Jill Loyden and Will Sheridan: Loyden is a junior this season, and Sheridan was a junior last season. Both were the tallest players in the starting lineups on their teams. Loyden’s goalkeeping skills and “Bump’s” rebounding and shot blocking abilities made these two the defensive leaders of both squads. Both seem to step up under pressure when they are most needed.

Lindsey Finnegan and Allan Ray: Finnegan and Ray, both seniors during their team’s runs, are serious offensive threats. They are the second leading scorers on their teams. Finnegan and Ray also played four productive years for Villanova.

Erin Byrnes and Dante Cunningham: Byrnes and Cunningham bring energy off the bench for their respective teams. Cunningham, a freshman last season, and Byrnes, a freshman during the current season, started a handful of games and have been very productive to begin their collegiate careers.

Kelly Eagen and Jason Fraser: Eagen and Fraser may not be the leading scorers on their respective teams, but their impact on the defensive end is immeasurable. Fraser’s injuries hindered him on the offensive end, but he finished with the second highest block total on the team. Eagen has had an excellent freshman campaign, starting all 17 games and recently earning Big East Defensive Player of the Week. Incidentally, they both also hail from the state of New York.

Head Coaches Ann Clifton and Jay Wright: Both coaches have had a knack for winning since their arrival at Villanova. Wright has a 104-59 record here, and entering the current season, Clifton had an almost identical career record of 108-57-23. Both coaches are in their low- to mid-forties and have over 10 years of head coaching experience.

There are three games remaining in the regular season. Although they face three very respectable Big East teams, a one-loss regular season looks very possible.

After losing once in its first 17 games, it seems Villanova women’s soccer still isn’t getting the respect it deserves on the national scale. The NSCAA ranks the Wildcats 23rd nationally. However, Notre Dame, West Virginia and Louisville (whom the Wildcats beat 1-0) were ranked higher than Villanova as of last weekend.

‘Nova will be tested in one of the most important regular season battles that the program has ever faced. The Wildcats will battle undefeated Notre Dame at 4 p.m. at home tomorrow before Hoops Mania. Notre Dame is a perfect 13-0-1, and is atop Villanova in the Big East. So after class is over, head to west campus to check out this much anticipated game. With Villanova’s defense, I can’t promise tons of scoring. However, I can promise that it will be a fun and exciting match.

The team’s postseason outlook appears to be bright. When a soccer team has a defense which is allowing .18 goals a game, odds are that the team will be in every game. Not to mention the team’s goalie, Jill Loyden, has 10 solo shutouts. In past years, the Wildcats lofty playoff expectations have been crushed by lesser opponents. However, this year feels like a different team. The ‘Cats expect to win every game they play. Come November and the start of the postseason, this team just may be the toast of every IK lunch table.