Women’s soccer forges tie with Rutgers after first loss

Christopher A. Smith

After losing its first game of the season, the Wildcat women’s soccer team avoided dropping two straight by forging a scoreless double-overtime tie with Rutgers on Wednesday. The Villanova defense did an admirable job holding the Scarlet Knights scoreless, but the team was unable to penetrate Rutgers’ defense, who also played superbly on defense. ‘Nova keeper Chrissy Dolan made six saves for her fifth shutout of the season. Prior to the Rutgers game, Villanova was finally defeated for the first time of the season on Sunday. The loss to Big East conference foe West Virginia dropped ‘Nova’s overall record to 5-1-2, including 1-1-0 in the Big East.

Defense was the theme on Sunday in Morgantown, as the game featured the previous week’s co-Big East goalkeepers of the week. West Virginia’s Melissa Haire recorded the shutout, while Villanova’s Chrissy Dolan had a game-high nine saves.

The lone goal for the 11th-ranked Mountaineers came in the game’s 80th minute by superstar forward Lauren Kane.

Prior to their loss at West Virginia, the Wildcats opened up the conference portion of their schedule with an overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers on Friday in Pittsburgh.

Villanova earned the 2-1 victory with just over one minute remaining in the first overtime. Sophomore Laura Johnson tallied her third goal of the year following a corner kick. Brittany Hunsaker and Janessa Jeltema assisted Johnson.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the second half, as Hunsaker scored on a pass from Julie Battista. However, Pittsburgh tied the score five minutes later on a rebound.

The game was more offensive-oriented than traditional Villanova battles, with the Wildcats out-shooting the Panthers 19-16.

“We were excited to get three points against Pitt,” said the game’s hero, Laura Johnson. She was referring to the three points awarded for a win in the Big East’s standings format.

“The game against West Virginia could have gone either way. We’d like to beat one of these nationally-ranked teams so we can get a ranking ourselves,” Johnson said.

Villanova stood in a tie for fourth place in the Mid-Atlantic Division of the Big East with Rutgers going into its game Wednesday with the Scarlet Knights. The top four teams from each division advance to the Conference Tournament, and then have an opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

“We have a confidence level in this program now and we expect to make the NCAA Tournament every year,” Johnson said.

The Wildcats return to the field today, to battle first-place Notre Dame at 4 p.m. at the Villanova Soccer Complex.

The return home is a relief for the ‘Cats.

“It feels really good to be home,” Johnson said. “It was a long couple of weeks, and now the support from our fans will help us out a lot. We have two golden opportunities here to beat good teams.”

Head Coach Ann Clifton is sure to have the ‘Cats ready for this week’s Big East games. “Our coaching staff does a great job of preparing us for these games. Every detail is taken care of,” Johnson added.