Wildcats break into national rankings

Carolyn Brown

Last year, for the first time in school history, the Villanova field hockey team worked its way into the national rankings at No. 17 and ultimately ended the season at No. 15. This week the Wildcats continued to make history when they ranked for the first time this season at No. 20 in the STX/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll.

“We know that we deserve to be a top ranked team,” junior left back Jennifer Nelson said. “We were a little shocked and thankful to see ourselves in the top 20 this week because we were just upset by Drexel, a team that we should have easily beat. It’s nice to see ourselves ranked No. 20 when we know that we are even a better team than that.”

West Chester University was the first victim of the week as the Wildcats defeated the Golden Rams 6-1. Sophomore Allison Boris helped lead ‘Nova to the win, scoring four goals and one assist.

A strong first half put the Wildcats in the lead as Boris scored the first goal of the game at 20:45 assisted by junior Stephanie Campbell. Senior captain Megan Foster scored seven minutes later off a feed from freshman Jenn Nazarethian. The Wildcats continued their offensive rally as junior Catherine Somits scored her first goal of the season off an assist by Boris to end the half with a shutout score of 3-0.

The Golden Rams were finally able to place themselves on the board in the second half off of a penalty stroke, marking their first and only shot on goal for the entire game. With a 3-1 lead, ‘Nova’s offense continued to dominate. Boris scored her third goal of the game unassisted and followed with another goal assisted by Foster to end the game 6-1.

“This was a good game to put points on the board,” Nelson said. “A lot of times we get caught being more of a defensive team, so it was nice to get a strong win going into our first Big East game.”

The Wildcats began Big East play on Saturday facing No. 9 Connecticut. The game featured a strong offensive and defensive effort from the Wildcats and resulted in an upset, sending the Huskies home with a 5-2 record, 0-1 in the Big East.

“We got beat by UConn last year in the Big East Championship and they were the reason why we didn’t get a bid to the NCAA tournament,” Nelson said. “We were really out to get them. We didn’t have too many shots, but when we did, we took advantage of the opportunities we got. We all really came together as a team.”

Senior Lauren Campanelli put Villanova in the lead early off of an assist from Campbell. However, the Huskies were able to answer back eight minutes later, tying the game 1-1. Campbell and Campanelli continued the offensive drive to close the half as they assisted Foster on the goal that put them in the lead going into the second half, 2-1.

“UConn has the reputation of being a team that gets inside their own heads,” Nelson said. “Knowing that and being in the lead going into the half, we knew we had to keep pushing and playing our game.”

The second half continued the offensive and defensive strengths of the Wildcats as Foster scored her second goal of the game off of a pass from Boris. With the score now 3-1, Nazarethian added one more goal to the board after a pass from Foster in a penalty corner play, capping off a 4-1 upset of the Huskies.

“This game was a strong defensive effort because UConn is a strong offensive team,” Nelson said. “We pressured every ball and were really able to step it up.”

Senior goalie Alex Whalen earned the win with eight saves, only allowing one goal the entire game. The Huskies had sixteen total shots on goal as the Villanova defense was able to hold them to only one score.

“This is the first game that we played a good 70 minute game,” Nelson said. “Everything clicked. Any win like that really bonds a team. We have most of our entire season left so it’s good to know that we can win like that, especially having more top ranked teams coming up.”

This week the Wildcats face Rutgers tomorrow at 7 p.m. and Lehigh Sunday at 1 p.m. both at Villanova Stadium.

Note: At press time, the team was ranked No. 18.