‘Nova field hockey eyes Big East Championship

Cailin Brophy

Fresh off a Big East finals appearance and with a number three preseason ranking in the Big East, the Villanova field hockey squad is ready to do some serious damage in 2002. Although the ‘Cats will be without the services of last season’s captains Brooke Bergemann and Stephanie Vrettos, who have been lost to graduation, they return five upperclassmen and 13 lettermen who have proven that they can get the job done.

One of the five seniors who will be instrumental in leading the ‘Cats back to the top of the conference is goalkeeper Meghan Helwig.

The 2001 Big East goalkeeper of the year has started every game in goal for ‘Nova since her freshman campaign. Helwig anchored the defense with a .821 save percentage, eighth best in the nation, to go along with five shutouts. Sophomore Becky Stanchina will be Helwig’s back-up in the cage.

The rest of the defense will be bolstered by a wealth of senior experience as well, in the form of backfield tandem Sarah Burdette and Kristen Strocen.

Look for an increased role from sophomore Vanessa Pizzuli, who will help offset the loss of Krissy Malchitsky. Pizzuli had a strong freshman season, contributing on defense as well as offense, recording 10 assists.

The midfield is the area in which the most change will be seen.

One familiar face will be junior Colleen Helms, who was a consistent contributer last season, recording four goals and five assists.

Fellow classmate and former Big East All-Rookie team selection Leah Lisausky will be splitting her time between the forward and midfield positions this season. Head coach Joni Milhous will also utilize her strong freshman class right away in the midfield.

Look for first-year players Sarah Francis, Jen Gondek and Gina DeMaestri to compete for starting positions in the middle.

The ‘Cats lost arguably their best player last year, offensive machine Stephanie Vrettos, but they return 2001 All-Mid Atlantic Region team member and leading scorer Christina Lugones.

Lugones broke out last season, recording an impressive 27 points and 11 assists, and was a huge part of the reason why ‘Nova led the Big East in goals scored (52). Once again, Milhous will call on the talent of the freshman class to continue the scoring dominance.

Philadelphia Inquirer Player of the Year Rory Rogers and sophomore Kelly Driscoll should have an immediate impact.

Driscoll finished last year on a strong note, recording three goals and two assists in the final two games of the season.

With a loaded freshman class and a solid core of veterans, look for Coach Milhous to lead these Wildcats back to the post-season in her eighth season on the Main Line.