Graziano: Impressive year for Wildcat athletics

Christopher A. Smith

In the midst of my response to ignorant columnists, complaints about illogical ticket distribution systems and failed attempts to pick college basketball winners, the Athletic Department has had an impressive year. Both team and individual success contributed to a proud present and promising future for the Wildcats.

The success on the field and improvements off the field coincide with the tenure of second-year athletic director Vince Nicastro.

Under Nicastro’s guidance, new state-of-the-art turf was laid on the field at Villanova Stadium and a baseball field is in the process of being built in nearby Plymouth Meeting.

Several promotional events have been initiated to increase student support for Villanova’s teams and efforts continue to make sure Villanova’s athletes excel in the classroom and in life after college sports.

For all of these reasons and more, Villanova’s Athletic Department was ranked in the top 20 of U.S. News and World Report’s 2002 ranking of the best college athletic programs in the country.

On-the-field success is what matters most in athletics; it is what drives coaches and their athletes to work every day. Villanova’s success began in the fall and will continue well past the completion of final exams this spring.

Villanova’s football team won a share of the Atlantic-10 Conference championship, while senior standout running back Brian Westbrook was honored with the Walter Payton Award, Division I-AA’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. And just last week, Westbrook was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Also in the fall, the women’s soccer teamed earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the second round before falling to powerhouse Penn State. Wildcat goalie Janel Schillig has gone on to play professionally, as she currently sports the uniform of the Philadelphia Charge.

Also in the fall, the field hockey team claimed runner-up status in the Big East.

Villanova’s signature sport, men’s basketball, returned to the national spotlight, as the hiring of Jay Wright led to an incoming recruiting class ranked as high as third in the nation.

Following a season that saw the ‘Cats advance to the quarterfinals of the NIT, expectations are beginning to mount at the Pavilion for the future of Villanova basketball. And don’t look past the women’s basketball team, which made its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, advancing to the second round of March Madness before falling to top-seed Oklahoma.Wildcat track and field continues to be a national powerhouse. The men’s distance medley relay team claimed the school’s first national championship in the event in 22 years.

Sophomore cross-country standout Adrian Blincoe also has a national championship to his credit this year.

On another individual note, Olympian Maddie Crippen captured three titles at this year’s Big East swimming championships.

Villanova’s spring sports are currently giving the Athletic Department plenty of reason for optimism. The men’s and women’s lacrosse programs continue to battle top-notch competition to assert themselves as forces in the northeast, while the baseball and softball teams currently own a combined 62-24 record. With all of this success, students should look forward to the 2002-03 athletic year on the Main Line.