Women capture Big East in shootout



Lauren Ferrerra

Penalty kicks gave the women’s soccer team its first ever Big East Championship last Sunday against Boston College when midfielder Erica Stewart found the net to give the ‘Cats a 7-6 victory. The crowning moment came during the second set of penalty kicks after two scoreless overtime periods failed to break the deadlock 1-1 score regulation ended with.

The Wildcats were no newcomers to the pressure; it was a penalty kick verdict in the Big East semi-final against No. 7 West Virginia too.

The day before ‘Nova came out on top of the Mountaineers out-shooting them 5-4 in the first penalty kick round and earning a trip to the finals against the Eagles for the first time in school history.

“To have both games be decided on penalty kicks was crazy,” senior captain Candice Macdonald said.

The Wildcats looked in championship form as they dominated the first half, setting up scoring opportunities right off the bat.

‘Nova struck at the 18:30 mark when forward Laura Johnson sent Lindsey Finnegan a lead pass in the box. Boston College’s goalkeeper, Kate Taylor, tried to beat Finnegan to the ball and managed to swat Finnegan’s show with her hand, deflecting the ball backwards to senior Janessa Jeltema.

Jeltema collected the ball, dribbled to her right and lobbed it into the back of the net, giving Villanova a 1-0 lead.

“The goal came on a great effort by Lindsey,” Jeltema said. “She challenged the goalkeeper and that created my opportunity. I saw that the keeper was out of position and was able to shoot it in.”

The Eagles tried to answer back, but their efforts were stifled by a stingy defensive unit lead by Laura Koch, captain Michelle Biehl and goal keeper Chrissy Dolan.

Going into the break ‘Nova remained on top after out shooting Boston College 6-4, with Dolan making one save in the first half.

The Eagles came out feisty the second half, looking to even the score and its offense was in full force as midfielder Heather Ferron broke free at the top of the box and nailed a shot to the top right. Dolan leaped for the ball and knocked it just over the net for the dramatic save.

In order to combat a feisty offensive push by Boston College, ‘Nova stepped to the challenge. “Our team worked together as a unit to play solid defense,” Biehl said. “Besides our physical ability to beat BC we used our mental ability, our hearts and sheer determination to get us through the game.”

The ‘Cats and Eagles continued to battle back and forth in the second half, each proving they wanted the title. The Eagles finally converted a scoring opportunity at the 59:32 mark when Boston College forward Laina Ceddia nailed a shot in net, which hit the crossbar and deflected back into play.

The ball was in the air when Beth Totman headed the ball into the net to tie the game 1-1. Both teams had other scoring opportunities, but both defensive units remained strong and regulation ended at 1-1.

The first 10-minute overtime period saw strong defensive efforts by MacDonald when she blasted hard shots at the net off Finnegan’s pass and a corner kick, but both shots went either wide or high of the net.

The second overtime consisted of the same strong play from both sides, and Boston College’s Farron made a dangerous shot at the 3:05 mark that went wide, ending the second overtime at a standstill.

“It was a huge disadvantage to us to go into penalty kicks with BC,” MacDonald said. “They were at our West Virginia game and were able to scout us. Typically, you place your kick to the same place every time. I was the fifth shooter, and I noticed the coaches were pointing which way we were going to shoot before we walked up.”

The Eagles were able to capitalize on the ‘Cat’s rattled nerves and went up 2-0 before Finnegan the cut the lead to 2-1 on ‘Nova’s next attempt.

Boston College’s Ferron and ‘Nova’s Johnson netted the next set of kicks, making the score 3-2 and then Dolan was able to save the next kick by Molly Dane, to give the ‘Cats a chance to tie the first round.

Freshman Valerie Grow delivered under the pressure, netting the kick to tie the score at 3-3. Mary Schneck of Boston College next beat Dolan in net, to bring up MacDonald. MacDonald outsmarted Taylor, to enter the second round of kicks tied 4-4.

Boston College’s Jenny Maurer and Wildcat Kelly Bresline both made their shots and scores by Totman and forward Regina Villari made the score 6-6.

Boston College’s Katie McGregor had the next attempt for the Eagles, but sent the shot wide of net, opening the window for Villanova to win the Big East Championship.

Wildcat midfielder Erica Stewart sent a low liner to the right of the net past Taylor to give Villanova and head coach Anne Clifton its first-ever Big East Championship title.

“It feels amazing,” Jeltema said. “The whole team has worked to hard to get to this point, it’s great to be rewarded for the effort we all have put in.”

The championship gives the 15th ranked ‘Cats an automatic bid to the 64 team NCAA Tournament where ‘Nova is scheduled to play Princeton today at 7 p.m. in the opening round. The winner will move to the next round to play the winner of the Virginia vs. William & Mary match up Sunday at 1 p.m.