Women’s soccer remains unstoppable in Big East

Christopher A. Smith

On the strength of a quality trip to Florida, the Villanova women’s soccer team has become one of the top teams in the country, moving to number 18 in the most recent Soccer America poll.

Villanova’s most recent contest was its final Mid-Atlantic Division battle of the year, a Wednesday game at Seton Hall.

Sophomore Janessa Jeltema scored the game-winner late in the second half to give the Wildcats the 2-1 victory.

Seton Hall was able to get on the board first against the Wildcats, as freshman Katie Herr put a shot past ’Nova keeper Chrissy Dolan to give her team the 1-0 lead at the 4:10 mark. Julie Battista tied the score at the 26:28 mark of the first half. Jeltema’s lone goal in the second half sealed the victory for the Wildcats, who outshot the Pirates 16-11.

Villanova’s defense has helped it compile a record of 11-1-4, including 4-1-1 in the Big East’s Mid-Atlantic Division, good enough for second place.

Villanova’s team success has them looking forward to a promising postseason, while several Wildcats continue to receive conference and national honors.

Standout junior goalkeeper Dolan has already been named Big East Goalkeeper of the Week four times this season. And on Oct. 16, sophomore defender Michelle Biehl was selected to the Soccer Buzz Elite Feet National Team of the Week.

“It is nice to get the individual honors, but they are more team rewards than anything else,” Dolan said. “I would not be able to do my job if it weren’t for the outstanding defense that we have.”

The job Dolan has done thus far is the main reason for the Wildcats’ success.

“I have been waiting two years for this opportunity, and I am just trying to take advantage,” she said.

Dolan stressed the importance of their latest victory.

“The NCAA places a lot of importance on how you finish the season, so we want to keep putting teams away and proving that we are one of the top teams in the conference.”

The ’Cats’ scheduled Oct. 16 contest against Princeton was cancelled due to inclement weather.

The Wildcats’ previous five-game winning streak came to an end on Sunday at the Villanova Soccer Complex in a Big East crossover match up with St. John’s.

Despite dominating the game and outshooting the Red Storm 26-11, ’Nova had to settle for a 1-1 tie.

“That game was a lesson for us,” Dolan said. “Even though it was a tie, we need to play a little harder next time.”

The lone Villanova goal was recorded in the first half by sophomore Laura Johnson on an assist by freshman Lindsey Finnegan. It was Johnson’s team-leading seventh goal of the season. St. John’s tied the game late in the second half and Villanova’s final chance at the buzzer of the second overtime came on a shot from Julie Battista, which hit the crossbar. Dolan recorded nine saves in goal on the day.

Prior to its game against St. John’s, Villanova traveled to Florida to take on Florida International and Miami over Fall Break.

As usual, Dolan stole the show in the Sunshine State. In two games she saved 16 shots and allowed zero goals as the Wildcats cruised to two victories by a combined score of 5-0.

Against the Hurricanes, the goals came from Jeltema, sophomore Regina Villari and junior Candice McDonald.

Villari also notched a goal against the Golden Panthers. Senior Kristin Dunst added the other score.

“The Florida trip was good because each win helps us earn more national respect,” Dolan said.

The Wildcats are back in action against Howard, Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Villanova Soccer Complex. Each game continues to be important to Villanova’s quest for the postseason.

“We are just taking it one game at a time right now,” Dolan said. “We are hopeful that we will surpass our success of last year. We know we can compete, and we are putting no limitations on our success this year.”