By Paul MartucciMagazine Editor
For the field hockey team, adversity is nothing new. After failing to qualify last year for the 16-team national championship tournament (despite their No. 15 ranking), the Villanova Wildcats finished the season with a sour taste in their mouths.
‘Nova has spent a year salivating for its opportunity to prove the doubters wrong, but before the team even saw its first action on the field, it was already facing extra adversity. The Big East preseason rankings placed the ‘Cats fourth behind Connecticut, Louisville and Syracuse. The ranking came as a letdown for a team that shared the Big East regular season crown just a year ago.
“When the Big East ranked us fourth we were all surprised and a little taken aback,” said senior Alex Whalen, who shares time as goalkeeper with fellow senior Erin Scott. “But now, it’s given us another opportunity to prove everyone wrong. Every year we’re shooting to be first in the Big East and this year is no different.”
Villanova’s run for another Big East championship, however, will not follow an easy path. The Wildcats fell two spots short of the NFHCA Top 20, the ‘Cats will face five Top 20 teams, including No. 3 Duke and Big East rivals Connecticut, No. 9 and Louisville, No. 14.
Thus far, the pursuit of success has led to a 3-1 record, with early season wins over Appalachian State, Monmouth and Quinnipiac and a lone setback against Hofstra. Despite the early loss, Whalen is confident in the team’s potential in the rest of this season.
“The biggest thing that we have to focus on this year is learn to trust each other on the field and really understand how to play together as a team,” she said. “This is something that I have no doubt we will achieve with more game experience. We have a young team, but we have a ton of talent. We just have to really get to know each other’s tendencies on the field, and when we do that we’ll be even stronger than last year.”
Led by coach Joanie Milhous and senior captains Megan Foster and Lauren Campanelli, ‘Nova continues to pursue success on the field. With the development of the incoming freshmen and the continued success of seniors like Foster, who is only seven goals and four points shy of setting Villanova career highs in both marks, the Wildcats confidently enter each and every game.
“Last year’s effort made us realize that all of our goals are 100 percent attainable, and that alone is enough for us to understand that this season is really crucial to our team,” a confident Whalon said. “We want our peers to realize that last year was not just a ‘good year’ for Villanova field hockey, and that this season we are just as, if not more talented than last year’s team.”