Women’s soccer advances to Big East semifinals

Christopher A. Smith

Before 325 fans on Sunday afternoon at the Villanova Soccer Complex, the women’s soccer team strengthened its identity as the best team on campus with a 1-0 victory over Boston College in the quarterfinals of the 2002 Big East tournament.

Head coach Ann Clifton’s Wildcats, seeded 2nd in the Mid-Atlantic Division and ranked 15th in the nation, recorded the first Big East tournament win in the program’s history. Their current record stands at 14-1-4, tied for the most wins in school history.

With the victory, Villanova moves on to the semifinals this weekend at Morrone Stadium in Storrs, Conn. The Wildcats will compete in today’s first semifinal at 5 p.m. against host Connecticut, the top seed in the Northeast Division, ranked 9th in the nation.

Connecticut advanced to the semifinals on the strength of a 1-0 victory over Georgetown.

These two Big East powers played to a 1-1 tie in early September. The winner of this battle will face the West Virginia/Rutgers winner on Sunday at noon. The Mountaineers are the only team to defeat ’Nova this season.

The championship game will be televised live on MSG Network, FOX Sports Net Florida, FOX Sports Net Chicago and New England Sports Network.

The game against Boston College was the first meeting between the two schools this season, and the contest was extremely physical throughout. The teams were scoreless after the first half, despite a combined 14 shots.

At the 49:22 mark of the second half, the Wildcat offense came through with the game’s only goal. It was an exciting play, as junior Candice MacDonald crossed the ball to sophomore Laura Johnson. Johnson headed the ball to freshman Brittany Hunsaker, who headed the ball past Eagle goalkeeper Kate Taylor into the left side of the net.

For Hunsaker, it was her fifth goal of the season, with three of her goals being game-winners. Johnson, the ’Cats’ leading scorer, and MacDonald tallied assists on the play.

Once ’Nova grabbed the lead, the stellar defense, led by Michelle Biehl, Jennifer Carrigan, Patricia Misciagna, Kristin Anderson and Laura Koch shut down the Boston College attack, as it has to most opponents this season.

The Eagles managed just five-second half shots, with one hitting the right post.

But as usual, Chrissy Dolan was reliable in goal for the ’Cats, picking up yet another shutout. One of Dolan’s game-high six saves came at the 71:15 mark, when she leaped and tapped a shot over the net.

Following this weekend’s conclusion of the Big East Tournament, the Wildcats will await their placement in this year’s NCAA Tournament. While Villanova is seeking its first-ever Big East Championship, the ’Cats figure to be a lock in the NCAA tourney despite the outcome of this weekend’s play.