Record season ends for ‘Nova

Paul Martucci

Villanova field hockey turned 2005 into a year of firsts in many categories. As the first team in program history to reach 15 wins, tie for a share in the Big East regular season championship and achieve a national ranking, the Wildcats accomplished more than anyone else expected.This past weekend marked the Big East championship. Four teams (top seed Villanova, second seed UConn, third seed Louisville and fourth seed Syracuse) qualified for the tournament which took place at Rutgers.’Nova’s first match up came on Friday when the ‘Cats took on Syracuse. Syracuse, who had handed Villanova its only regular season Big East loss this season, started the game where the team had left off. Late in the first half, the Orange netted the game’s first goal and took a 1-0 lead.The contest entered the half with Villanova down by one goal, but the team quickly bounced back. Head coach Joanie Q. Milhous said, “Syracuse capitalized quicker than we did. I think this opened our team’s eyes to start things going, and it did. We had many opportunities, and we knew the focus was to capitalize and show them how strong our team is.”The Wildcats exploded in the second half, scoring four goals over the course of the half to record a 4-1 victory. Junior Megan Foster scored two, sophomore Stephanie Campbell scored one and freshman Allie Noorduyn netted the final goal. Junior Alex Whalen held the Orange to one goal.Friday’s win over Syracuse and a 1-0 win by UConn over Louisville set the stage for Sunday’s championship game, a rematch against UConn. On the line in this game was a guaranteed spot in the NCAA tournament, garnered by the Big East champion.Unlike the beginning of the Syracuse game, Villanova started the scoring by netting the game’s first goal three minutes in as junior Megan Foster found the back of the goal. UConn was quick to answer as Meagan Hoffman tied the game at one 20 minutes after Villanova’s goal. Connecticut’s offense remained strong all game, dominating ball control, but the defense held UConn to a 1-1 tie at the end of the half.Eleven minutes into the second half, as UConn continued to control the tempo, the Huskies broke through as Kristin Galuski scored a go-ahead 2-1 goal. Although the Wildcats would not gain many more offensive chances, the team made the most of those few chances. In one of only four shots taken on the half, Lauren Campanelli scored a late goal to tie the game at two.”Against UConn, I wouldn’t say the offense struggled,” Milhous said. “We actually capitalized on the only opportunities that we got. When we did get on attack, we were always a threat. We just needed more chances on attack.”The game, knotted at two, went to overtime but ended soon thereafter. Only two minutes into the extra session, Lindsey Leck scored the game winning goal and won the Big East championship for UConn.At the end of the game, UConn had dominated the statistics. The Huskies led in shots, 21-5, and in penalty corners, 14-3. Milhous, comparing this stat to the game’s final score, credited the defense for keeping the game close. “UConn played a very strong offensive game,” she said. “Our defense, and especially goalie Alex Whalen, did a tremendous job on holding them off.”Losing the Big East championship, Villanova was forced to wait until Tuesday for the ten NCAA at-large selections to be made. However, in spite of moving from 17th to 15th in the nation in Tuesday’s final poll, the dust settled Tuesday night for the ‘Cats to find themselves eliminated from postseason play, not reaching the 16-team NCAA tournament.”It was disappointing,” Milhous said.  “I feel like we really had a legitimate shot at being selected.  I know the ACC Conference is strong but I was surprised that they took five out of six teams from it.”The success of the 2005 field hockey Wildcats, however, cannot be forgotten. The team’s first 15 win season, first national ranking in program history and first regular season Big East Championship were all recorded this season. In addition, senior Rory Rogers won Co-Big East Offensive Player of the Year, junior Lauren Campanelli won Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and Milhous won Big East Coach of the Year. Rogers, Campanelli, and junior Megan Foster all made All-Big East First Team.Milhous echoed the positive and optimistic attitude that has epitomized this year’s field hockey squad throughout the entire season when reflecting upon the season. “The team is truly awesome and I adore these young ladies,” she said.  “They have the greatest attitudes, the greatest work ethic and play with so much heart and desire at all times. Villanova field hockey took amazing strides this year and showed what the coming years are going to bring.””There are so many accomplishments this year and it truly is a season to remember!”