Heading into Sunday’s NCAA tournament game, the Wildcat women had a lot of things to be proud of.
They had compiled an awesome 13-5-2 regular season record, had beaten Yale 2-1 in the opening game of the tourney, had four Big East All Conference selections including sophomore goalkeeper Jillian Loyden and first team All Conference forward Laura Johnson.
This was all Villanova could ask of this tough team, and a second round game against No. 7 hosting Princeton proved to be too much as the Cats fell 1-0.
The win against Yale capped the brilliant seasons of a few players, and served as a great send-off for one of the most prolific senior classes in Villanova history. The four-year girls finished with an over .700 winning percentage and made the NCAA tournament all four of their years.
“Our senior class has had such a tremendous impact on each other and our program. I will definitely miss the other seniors because we have been through so much together over these four years,” Johnson said.
Johnson gave the girls something to keep in mind, scoring both goals against the Bulldogs including the clincher with under 12 minutes to go in the game.
In addition to Johnson, other graduating players included second team all conference defender Michelle Biehl, midfielder Erica Stewart, forward Regina Villari and defender Patricia Misciagna. Though not receiving as many accolades as Johnson, all four players contributed to a tough defensive team which won the Big East Conference last year.
“Our five seniors have left an unbelievable mark on our program,” head coach Ann Clifton said on villanova.com. “They will be a part of our program forever.”
Not to be forgotten, Loyden had one of her best games of the year against Princeton, stopping 10 shots to match her season high and only allowing the one goal in the third overtime.
Though five pivotal pieces are leaving the team, Johnson is confident that because of injuries and other factors, the younger girls have a lot of opportunity to show their merit.
“I told the underclassmen to take care of each other and respect each other because, at the end of the day, the relationships you have with each other are what matter the most,” Johnson said. “Those relationships not only win big games but make the entire journey worthwhile.”
Junior Laura Koch, a third team all Conference selection, will join Loyden and Big East Rookie of the week Nikki Mabery on a team expected to continue the precedent set by their upperclassmen bretheren.
“We really are a group of hardworking girls and I know I have left the program in good hands,” Johson said.