Loyden, defense lead Wildcats to 1-0 victory

Joe Groglio

In almost every team sport, it is said that defense wins championships. If this is true in women’s soccer, then the Wildcats will surely be contenders this season.

Behind the strong play of goalie Jillian Loyden, along with a tenacious defense led by All-American senior Michelle Biehl, the ‘Cats picked up two more shutout victories this week over Boston College and Towson.

Loyden was named Big East goalie of the week, making it the second time this season has won this honor.

“Jillian is a very big part of our success and we are so excited to have her start her career with two All Big East Weekly honors,” head coach Ann Clifton said.

“We also realize that this is a great team honor too,” she added.

On Friday the ‘Cats faced the Eagles in Boston in their first Big East conference game. Loyden, who had eight saves en route to another shutout, and the rest of the Villanova defense controlled most of the game. Michelle Biehl, Laura Koch and Kayce Blandford also put in solid defensive efforts.

The game was won in the 61st minute when freshman Stacia Hartung beat her defender and lofted a perfect pass to Kelly Breslin, who scored on the header.

“Boston College is one of the better teams in the conference so to go in there and get ahead of them from the beginning is awesome for us,” captain Laura Johnson said.

On Sunday the ‘Cats were right back in action at home against Towson.

In the first half, the defense once again dominated. While the offense had many opportunities, they were unable to score on Tigers’ goalie Brandie Daniels.

Six minutes into the second half, the Wildcats finally broke the game open. Kayce Blandford passed the ball to Hartung, who served a beautiful ball to Johnson, enabling her to head it for the goal.

Forty seconds later, Hartung, with her third assist in two games, found Megan Farmer, who converted for the team’s second goal. That, along with another solid defensive performance, was more than enough to secure the Wildcats win.

Because Biehl and the defense were so dominant, Loyden had no saves on the day.

The victories moved the ‘Cats to 7-1 record and No. 24 in the NCAA ranking.

This weekend will be a tough one, as the team goes on the road to play West Virginia tonight and Seton Hall on Sunday.

“[The West Virginia Mountaineers] are big rivals and another team that can make a run at the Big East title,” Johnson said. “Getting ahead of them in the conference would be great.”