‘Cats earn first ever national ranking

Paul Martucci

A week filled with exciting surprises left the Villanova field hockey team nationally ranked and recognized with three individual awards this past week. The ‘Cats entered this past Saturday’s game with the University of Connecticut with momentum. They had won two in a row, defeating both Philadelphia rival Temple and West Chester to improve its record to 5-1. The team, however, still had much to prove.

“Our team has unbelievable potential and we come to practice to work hard day in and day out,” co-captain Natalie Balthrop said. “The desire to win and the level of competition is what drives our team to succeed.”

That desire to win had never been more apparent than it was on Saturday in Storrs, Ct. Saturday signified a showdown with defending Big East champ UConn, ranked 11th in the nation. Last year, Villanova lost two one-goal decisions to UConn, but this year’s squad went into the game with confidence.

“Everyone came in on a mission this year,” junior forward Lauren Campanelli said. “We have all been really connecting this year as a team with our passing and complete play.”

In spite of the momentum and the confidence Villanova entered the game with, the game did not start as well as the team had hoped.

UConn struck first to take an early 1-0 lead 13 minutes into the game, but a Campanelli goal three minutes later tied the game at one goal apiece. UConn’s explosive offensive power was exhibited as the second half opened with two early goals establishing a 3-1 lead for UConn. At this point, head coach Joanie Q. Milhous called timeout.

“There were still 20 minutes left when they scored their third goal so we knew we still had time,” Campanelli said. “Joanie [Milhous] called a timeout and we decided then that we weren’t losing the game.”

These words of inspiration proved to penetrate the hearts of the team, as the Wildcats answered quickly with a goal by co-captain Rory Rogers. This left Villanova in that all-too-familiar one goal deficit to UConn for the next 15 scoreless minutes, but with five minutes remaining junior forward Sara Schmidt scratched across a goal to tie the game at three.

The game would remain knotted at three goals apiece until a minute and a half remained. At this point, Villanova netted the final piece of the comeback. With 94 seconds remaining, Campanelli stepped up and netted a goal to earn the ‘Cats a 4-3 lead and an eventual upset of the dominant UConn Huskies.

“I didn’t really have any time to think about it,” Campanelli said. “The game winner came off of a corner, where Megan Foster put a shot on goal and I deflected it into the net.”

The win marked a significant win for both the field hockey program’s morale and national reputation.

“It was just a great feeling,” Campanelli said. “We have come so close the last few times we’ve played them and it was time to finally put them away.”

Milhous felt similarly toward the victory.

“There was not one point in the game where we gave up,” Milhous said. “We believed we could do it and just kept fighting.”

The victory also earned Villanova a rank of 17th in the nation, the first time the program has ever been nationally ranked. The loss suffered by UConn dropped their ranking from 11th to 15th.

Campanelli’s two goal campaign against UConn has gained her recognition as both the Big East Offensive Player of the Week and the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I Player of the Week. In addition, Balthrop was

acknowledged with the team’s third individual weekly awards. On September 19, Balthrop earned the Big East field hockey Defensive Player of the Week. She led the defensive attack in September 14’s 2-0 shutout over West Chester and September 17’s 4-3 upset over UConn. By sweeping both the Offensive and Defensive Big East Player of the Week, Villanova becomes only the second team to accomplish this feat this season.

In Villanova’s first game as a Top 20 team, the ‘Cats defeated Lehigh by a score of 5-0. Megan Foster led the team with three goals and Rogers joined the effort with two of her own. The field hockey team continues its quest for further success today at Rutgers.