Stellar defense powers ‘Nova past Big East rivals

Stephen Buszka

The Villanova women’s soccer team finished this past week with two 1-0 victories over Big East rivals Seton Hall and Rutgers to improve to a conference record of 2-0-1 and an overall record of 6-3-2. Defense proved to be the key in both these victories.

The two wins propelled Villanova into second place in Division B, tied with Georgetown and three points behind Notre Dame, ranked 6th in the nation by the NSCAA Division I women’s soccer poll.

On Friday the Wildcats bested the Seton Hall Pirates in what was a scoreless game until late in the second half. In the 72nd minute, Megan Farmer dished the ball off to leading scorer, Lindsay Finnegan, who fired it into the bottom right corner of the net for the game’s lone goal. The assist was Farmer’s first of the year. The goal was Finnegan’s fourth of the year.

On Sunday Villanova played a Rutgers team that has troubled the Wildcats in recent seasons.

“We hadn’t beaten Rutgers in four years and that was a big part of our thought process coming into the game,” head coach Ann Clifton commented.

Villanova, however, showed up to play and was anchored by a stingy defense that added the only score of the game. The goal was scored by sophomore defender, Kayce Blandford, in the 43rd minute of play on an indirect free kick from 35 yards out.

“I was surprised that the shot went in,” Blandford said about her first career goal. “I was trying to get the ball on goal and maybe get a knockdown, but instead it went over the keeper and we got the goal.”

Highlighting the two close victories was the announcement on Monday that two Wildcat defenders, junior goalie Jillian Loyden and Kayce Blandford, were awarded Big East honors on Monday.

Loyden was named to the weekly Honor Roll. This award comes as little surprise as it follows a 2004 campaign in which she was named to second team All-Region by NSCAA, second team All-Big East last year and Big East Goalkeeper of the Week for three straight weeks. She recorded 11 saves in the past two games.

Kayce Blandford was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week. Additionally, on Tuesday, Blandford became one of 11 players to be named to the Elite Fleet Team of the Week by Blandford has led a Villanova defense that has allowed just two goals in the last six games and none in the last three.

The team plays two games on the road this weekend and looks to extend their three-game winning streak. The ‘Cats play Syracuse (2-5-3, 1-0-2 Big East) on Friday at 7:00 p.m. and stop in Jamaica, NY on Sunday to play St. John’s (5-5-1, 1-2-0 BE) at 1 p.m.