’Nova splits opening Big East games on the road



Greg Habeeb

(Kristina Sumfleth/The Villanovan)


Villanova (3-6-2, 1-1)  went on the road and split its first two Big East matches of the season, defeating the Butler Bulldogs (6-5-0, 0-1) 1-0 on Thursday before falling to the Marquette Golden Eagles (6-5-1, 2-0) by the same score on Sunday. 

Thursday’s match featured a scoreless first half which gave way to a dramatic turn of events in the second half. of the game. 

’Nova junior forward Christina Camassa scored the game’s lone goal in the 68th minute and sophomore goalkeeper Emma Meyer’s gutsy save on a Bulldog penalty kick preserved the victory for the Wildcats. 

Villanova’s preparation for its Big East schedule began towards the end of its non-conference matches. Head Coach Fran Kulas made some adjustments in the team’s scheme, hoping they would pay off for the conference slate.

“Before last weekend against Towson and West Virginia, we started implementing a new system for conference play,” Kulas said. “We used those last two non-conference games as a tune up, and we spent this past week focusing on ourselves and preparing for Big East play.”

Butler had the best opportunity of either side to score in the first half, when junior midfielder Sophia Maccagone found a fellow midfielder, sophomore McKenzie Muchow, in scoring position. Muchow’s shot was inches wide, deflecting off of the left post. 

The Bulldogs outshot the Wildcats 4-1 in the first half, and held an 11-3 shot advantage for the entire game. 

Seven of those shots came from Maccagone, who fueled Butler’s attack throughout the match. Butler also held a 6-1 advantage in corner kicks.

Despite a lack of scoring chances, ’Nova still managed to come away with the victory. Kulas mentioned his team’s opportunistic mindset as the reason why the Wildcats were able to win their first Big East game. 

“One thing we talk about is that there are usually one or two pivotal plays in a game and you never know when a play is going to be it,” Kulas explained. “Every single player made one big time play and that was the difference.

“Christina scored her goal and that was our only shot on goal. She took advantage. Emma made that save in a very tough environment.” 

Camassa’s second half goal was the product of a dual assist from senior midfielders Victoria Gersh and Caitlin Forte, whose passing set the table for Camassa to find the upper left corner of the net to give the Wildcats a lead. 

The goal was preceded by a pair of shots on the other end by Muchow, both of which were well defended by Meyer. 

Meyer had three saves on the day, though none were more important than her lead-saving deflection of a Maccagone penalty kick in the 72nd minute. 

Maccagone sent the penalty to the right, but Meyer was there to make a one-handed save. 

Meyer was also very effective in Sunday afternoon’s match at Marquette, tallying six saves. However, the Wildcats were unable to rebound from a Golden Eagle goal in the 19th minute for their first Big East defeat of the season.

Sophomore forward Liz Bartels netted her third goal of the season for Marquette. Receiving a pass from freshman midfielder Eli Beard, Bartels slipped through the defense before striking the ball past Meyer into the left side of the net. 

The Wildcats started the game sluggish, managing only one shot on net in the first half and allowing 8 of Marquette’s 18 total shots in the first 20 minutes of action.

“Marquette was exactly how we thought they were going to be from our scouting and film,” Kulas said. “But they came out and were caused a couple problems for us. We had to make an adjustment and that tightened things up.”

Villanova struggled again coming out of the gate in the second half before picking things up towards the end of the period. 

’Nova had two shots in the final minute, courtesy of freshman forward Amanda Vocelka and junior midfielder Hayley Wilson. Vocelka’s shot was blocked by a defender, while Wilson’s shot was pushed wide of the net. 

Kulas pointed out the importance of starting games and halves strongly, especially against conference opponents. 

“Marquette is a tough place to play and a good team,” he stated. “In the Big East you can’t start out slow, you have to come out ready to roll.

“That being said, I’m proud of the way we played, especially the last twenty minutes of the first half.” 

With the loss, Villanova falls to 2-4 in matches decided by one goal.

The Wildcats will continue their march through their conference schedule on Thursday at home against Xavier. Game time is 4 p.m.