Hat trick powers ‘Nova to 5-0

Kaitlin Santanna

By Kaitlin Santanna Staff Reporter

Entering last weekend’s Villanova Tournament, the women’s soccer team sought to uphold its perfect record. The ‘Cats upheld their picture of perfection, posting two shutout wins and the first career hat trick by junior Nikki Mabery.

Villanova opened the tournament Friday afternoon in the West Campus Soccer Complex. Once again plagued by cold rain and wind, the ‘Cats battled through a physical and defensively-driven match against the Hartford Hawks (1-3). The first half saw a plethora of back and forth action between the two teams. A strong effort by the Villanova defense kept the Hawks’ scoring chances to a minimum. The Wildcats poured on the offensive juice for the last eight minutes of the first half, but ‘Nova was held without a goal in the opening 45 minutes for the first time this season.

The defensive struggles continued through the second half. The match’s only scoring opportunity came in the 67th minute. Junior defender Kayce Blandford’s corner kick was positioned perfectly for Kelly Eagan to head her first collegiate goal into the back of the net. Goalkeeper Jillian Loyden posted four saves in the 1-0 shutout win.

The superior Wildcat defense received a surge of support from its offensive counterparts during 5-0 victory versus the Robert Morris Colonials (1-2) Sunday afternoon. Unfit field conditions forced the closing games of the Villanova Tournament to be played in the Villanova Stadium. While the fast surfaced turf of the stadium contrasts with the natural grass of the West Campus field, the Wildcats were able to easily adapt to the changing conditions.

Villanova dominated the game from the opening whistle, out-shooting the Colonials 11-2 in the first half. Mabery’s first of three goals in the contest came off of a penalty kick just over nine minutes into the game. Initially, Mabery scored off of a corner kick before Robert Morris was called for a handball. A low kick off of the penalty arrived at the back of the net, marking Mabery’s fourth goal and second game winning goal of the season.

Mabery’s scoring rampage continued with 11:49 to go in the half. Sophomore Erin Hardiman made a beautiful pass to Mabery, who tapped the ball into the net for her second goal of the game.

The conclusion of Mabery’s scoring trio was perhaps the most exciting. Following a save, goalie Loyden punted the ball three-quarters of the way down the field. The ball landed perfectly at the feet of Mabery, who then broke away from the Colonial defense to net her third goal of the game almost fifteen minutes into the second half. The assist was Loyden’s first point of her storied career and the first from a Villanovan goaltender in nearly six years.

Mabery is the first ‘Nova player with a hat trick since 2002. She already has six goals to her credit on the season, one less than her season total for all of 2005. Along with leading the team in goals, Mabery also is the squad’s point leader with 13 (6 goals, 1 assist).

“It was really about the whole team effort today,” Mabery recalled. “We were disappointed in our level of play during Friday’s game and really wanted to come out firing for this game. We worked a lot harder today and it showed in the goals that we scored.”

The Wildcat offense did not just stop with Mabery’s impressive performance. Grace Hawkins, starting in her first career game, one-timed her second goal of the season off of a forward pass from Stacia Hartung with 11:54 remaining in the game. The final goal of the game came off of a corner kick taken by Kristen Verbit. After finding its way into the box, Athena Yiantsos netted her first goal with just over six minutes remaining in the match.

Throughout Sunday’s games, the Wildcats only allowed one goal in 450 minutes of play, indicating the first time in Villanova history where they have allowed only one goal through five games. Loyden sports a 0.22 goals-against average and 16 solo shutouts in her career. Freshman Molly Williams made her first collegiate save when she entered the match, relieving Loyden with 20 minutes remaining in the game.

Villanova next travels to Annapolis for the U.S. Naval Academy Tournament. They take on Butler tomorrow at 4 p.m. before playing Louisiana State Sunday at 1:30 p.m.