Women’s Soccer Faces Two Ivy League Opponents

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Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

CiCi Fox (above) scored with three minutes remaining to force a draw against Penn.

Katie Lewis , Staff Writer

Although the women’s soccer team has struggled to build consistent momentum during the first five games of the season, posting a record of 0-3-2, new head coach Samar Azem is confident that the players are ready for a promising season of transition.

This week, the team took on two Ivy foes, tying the University of Pennsylvania 1–1 on Sept. 1 and falling to Cornell 2–1 on Sept. 4. According to Azem, both games provided a wealth of material for the team to better understand both their strengths and places for improvement.

The game against Penn was one of the Wildcats’ strongest performances yet. Villanova controlled possession throughout the first half, only allowing one shot from the Quakers, which went wide of the net. During the second half, the Wildcats continued to create scoring chances, taking six shots throughout the final 45 minutes.

Penn scored off a header to the back corner of the net (76’) to take a 1-0 lead. The Wildcats refused to concede. The last chance to even the score came during the final minutes when junior midfielder Emma Weaver sent a long ball into the box, finding senior forward Makayla Stadler. Stadler deftly knocked the ball towards graduate forward CiCi Fox, who headed it into the goal with only three minutes left on the clock. 

Three days later, the team traveled to Ithaca, NY, to face Cornell. The game’s three goals were scored in short succession and all during the first half, with the Big Red notching the first two off a blocked clearance (12’) and a rebound during a corner kick (18’). But only a minute later, Villanova bounced back when senior defender Alexa Wojnovich scored by connecting a cross from Weaver (19’). The Wildcats were unable to score an equalizer, leaving the final score at 2-1. 

Azem and the players felt the extra boost of energy during the second half that resulted in the tie with Penn was lacking in the Cornell game.

“We took our foot off the gas after a really good performance against Penn, but we still have a lot to take away from that,” Azem said. “We’ve been talking a lot about responses within games and I thought our players dug deep [against Cornell], responding with a great goal pretty quickly.”

One aspect of the Wildcats’ performance thus far has been adjusting to changes, as the program introduced a new coaching staff for the 2022–23 season. 

“A big part of the last month for the players has been learning a new style, a new system and a new way of operating in general,” Azem said.

The team will have more than a week to train before they return to New York to play Colgate on Sept. 14. The team’s focus will be on fine-tuning its playing style and preparing physically and mentally for the upcoming competition.

“Nothing’s going to come easily this season, and everything’s going to be hard work,” Azem said. “But we’ve shown the players that we want to see them succeed, and they’ve given us twice as much back. I’m really excited about what these young women are doing every day — they’re hungry to win.”

The Colgate game will be the last before the Wildcats enter Big East conference play later in the month, beginning with Seton Hall on Sept. 25.