‘Cats advance in tournament

Joe Groglio

As the winners of last year’s Big East Tournament, it is obvious that the Villanova Wildcats women’s soccer team knows how to win when it counts.

They are now showing the nation that last year’s team was no fluke, as they defeated the 22nd ranked team in the nation Sunday, the West Virginia Mountaineers. This marks their second victory this season over West Virgina, and moves the ‘Cats one step closer to their ultimate goal of a Big East championship.

“This is such a huge win because the rivalry between our two teams is incredible,” senior Laura Johnson said.

The first half went like most first halves this season, as a defensive war took place with neither team having a chance to score. Michelle Biehl, Laura Koch and Kristen Anderson played valiantly, as they protected yet another shutout.

“The Nova defense and our goalkeeper, Jillian Loyden were outstanding – they dominated a very talented West Virginia Team,” head coach Ann Clifton said.

The ‘Cats were finally able to take control in the 81st minute of play, when Laura Koch sailed a pass into the box. From there Nikki Mabery took control of the ball, and dished it off to Laura Johnson for the game winner. Johnson’s goal was her seventh this year, which makes her the team leader in goals, assists and points.

The ‘Cats now sit at 13-5-1 on the year, as they travel to Storrs, CT on Friday to face a tough 2nd seed UConn team in the semifinals.

In the other side of the bracket, No. 1 seed Notre Dame will play fifth seed Boston College, also at Storrs.

In their earlier matchup against the Huskies, ‘Nova suffered a 3-0 defeat, but the team has grown since then. The Wildcats also beat BC during the regular season year but lost to Notre Dame 1-0, which means they have a realistic shot at defending their crown.

They will need every win they can get to make an impression on the NCAA selection committee.

“We think our NCAA resume is filling up and hope the Committee will see us as a team that deserves to be in the Tournament,” Clifton said.

The ‘Cats are catching fire at the right time of year, and as the defending champs they have the postseason experience on their side. Hopefully this will lead to another Big East title, and who knows what can happen after that. As we learned in 1985 with basketball, in the NCAA tournament anything can happen.

“Hopefully the win against West Virginia will get us into the NCAA’s but doing well and winning another Big East championship this weekend will make it definite,” Johnson said.