Defense leads Lady ‘Cats to perfection

Joe Groglio

In college sports, it is often seen that success comes in cycles.

For the Villanova women’s soccer team, this cycle began when Ann Clifton took the head coaching reins in 1997.

After a steady improvement each season, the ‘Cats won the Big East Championship last season, and made a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

This year the team is on a mission to continue this success.

The Wildcats started the season with a bang with two early wins over St. Joseph’s and Bucknell.

Playing against the rival Hawks is always a battle, and this one was no exception.

The Villanova defense dominated, allowing only one shot in the first half, but St. Joe’s goalie Jen Kuhn also did not allow any goals on 10 Wildcat shots.

In the second half, the ‘Cats showed why they are the defending Big East champs, as senior Regina Villari scored twice, both coming off headers. The first goal resulted from a corner kick from talented freshman Kaley Guthrie at the 66 minute mark.

Less than 20 minutes later Villari converted again, this time assisted by senior Laura Johnson.

“I sent a ball across the box because after playing with Reg for so long I just knew she would be there,” Johnson said. “Sure enough I looked up, saw her and she put the game away.”

Sophomore goalie Jillian Loyden continued her dominance, recording her second straight shutout. Although, thanks to the solid defense of her teammates, she only had to record one save.

All-American Michelle Biehl and the dependable Laura Koch took care of the St. Joe’s offense to seal the win, aided by junior Kristen Anderson and freshman Kayce Blandford.

Two days later the team was back in action at home against Bucknell where the powerhouse play continued.

Freshman Nikki Mabery led the offensive attack with two goals en route to being named Big East Rookie of the week.

Laura Johnson once again was in the middle of things, assisting on the first goal with a spectacular lead pass into the center of the box.

Sophomore Megan Farmer, who assisted on Mabery’s second goal, added a third goal off a breakaway pass from freshman Stacia Hartung to put away the game.

As usual the defense was unstoppable, allowing the offense to maintain possession for almost the entire game. Koch, Anderson, Blandford and Kelly Breslin allowed the Bisons’ only two shots all game.

Loyden recorded her third shutout, which earned her Big East Goalkeeper of the Week honors. Amanda Chuda stepped in to relieve Loyden.

“It was a great win and it allowed our young team to gain confidence and experience that will definitely be valuable as our schedule gets tougher,” Johnson said.

Mayberry agreed. “The two home games were great, and we had a pretty good turnout for both games.

“We hope to do well this weekend at the UPenn Tournament, and come out with two more wins,” she added.

The Wildcats are currently ranked 22nd in the nation and hold a record of 4-0-0.

This weekend they will be back in action in the University of Pennsylvania Tournament, with their first game against Princeton on Friday at 2:30 p.m.