Women’s basketball prepares for non-conference schedule



Paul Regan

Villanova was picked to finish third in the Big East preseason poll after finishing last season with a 22-14 record overall and 12-6 mark in league play. The Wildcats, led by seniors Caroline Coyer, Katherine Coyer, and Kavunaa Edwards, return eight letterwinners and three starters to a team that finished third in the Big East and advanced to the quarterfinal round of the WNIT.

The schedule for the Wildcats has them playing 29 games total, including 18 Big East contests, the annual Philadelphia Big Five slate of four games, and seven other non-conference games.

’Nova opened its 2015-2016 season last Friday at North Carolina State, which finished 18-15 last season and brought in a recruiting class of six freshmen that ranked 16th in the nation. Villanova’s second half comeback fell short in a 70-64 loss to the Wolfpack. 

Villanova then defeated the newest member of the Patriot League, the Loyola University Maryland Greyhounds, on Monday night for the Wildcats’ home opener. This was the two teams’ first matchup since 2007. 

Next Tuesday, Villanova will host St. Joe’s to open Philadelphia Big Five play. The Hawks return 11 letterwinners, including three starters, from last year’s team that claimed a share of the Big Five championship, but managed just a 13-17 record overall. ’Nova will be looking to avenge last season’s 4-point loss at St. Joe’s.

The Wildcats will participate in the Lehigh Thanksgiving Classic Tournament, where they take on Drexel on Nov. 28 in the first round. The Dragons, who are coached by former Villanova player Denise Dillon, are coming off their fifth 20-win season in program history, going 20-11. 

Pending the result against Drexel, Villanova will play either Montana or host Lehigh in the second game of the tournament the following day. Either team would pose a tough matchup for ’Nova. Montana went 24-9 last season and won the Big Sky regular-season title with a 14-4 league mark. Lehigh returns 12 letterwinners and three starters to a 19-win team that lost in the Patriot League championship game. 

Following the Thanksgiving tournament, Villanova will play a talented Temple team that is coming off a 20-win season and a WNIT finals appearance. The Owls will add four transfers and two freshmen to a team that returns four players who averaged in double figures in scoring last season. Villanova did earn a 15 point victory at Temple last year.

’Nova then travels to the West Coast to play in the Cal Berkeley Classic Tournament. The Wildcats take on Sacramento State in the first round on Dec. 5. Their success against the Hornets will hinge on defending the three, as Sacramento State has broken the NCAA single season record for both three-pointers made and attempted in each of the past two seasons.

Villanova will face either St. Mary’s or host California on day two of the tournament. The Gaels have three straight 23-win seasons and were picked to finish third in the West Coast Conference and California returns two starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament second round squad.

Next, the Wildcats will play an away game at George Washington on Dec. 13 against possibly their toughest non-conference opponent. Ranked 21st in the nation, the Colonials are the favorite to repeat as Atlantic 10 champions. George Washington returns almost every player from last season’s team, which went 29-4 overall and 15-1 in the A-10 to claim the league title and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. 

In its final game before Big East play commences, ’Nova will look to repeat last year’s 70-36 drubbing of La Salle  on Dec. 20.

Big East Conference play begins after the turn of the year, and a January 26 home game against Penn will close out both the Big Five and non-conference portions of the schedule for the Wildcats. Last year, Penn earned both its first WNIT berth and share of the Big Five title. Villanova has defeated the Quakers in each of the teams’ last 13 matchups.