Nov. 2, 2011
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - The No. 3 seed Villanova Wildcats (8-10, 3-3) will take on the No. 2 seed Syracuse Orange (16-3, 5-1) in the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship this Friday at 3 p.m. at J.S. Coyne Field on the campus of Syracuse University. This game marks the first time that Villanova has been in the BIG EAST Championships since 2006. The Wildcats will be seeking their 2nd conference championship in team history. The first came in 1990.
This season, the Wildcats faced a lot of ups and downs, suffering a 5-game losing streak at one point, but bounced back by winning two of its three final BIG EAST games to solidify themselves as the third-seed in the conference tournament. The biggest of those victories was a 2-1 victory over then-No.20 Louisville on October 15th.
The Wildcats will be facing a Syracuse team who they faced only a week ago on Senior Day at Villanova Stadium. The game was tight the entire time, but Syracuse pulled out a late 3-2 victory on a goal with less than five minutes to go. The conference rivals will face off again this Friday with much more at stake, but Villanova goes in with a positive attitude. Head Coach Joanie Milhous said, "Our team goal is to play the best field hockey that Villanova Field Hockey can play. If we play to our potential and play with intensity and passion then we can be very successful in this tournament."
Villanova will be lead by a strong crop of freshmen who has provided a majority of the scoring for the Wildcats this season, along with a veteran back line who has established themselves as one of the tops in the BIG EAST.
On offense, freshman Jessica Swoboda (Hanover Township, Pa.) leads the way with 21 points this season on 7 goals and 7 assists. She has been named to the conference Weekly Honor Roll three times and has scored three game-winning goals on the season. She is in the top-10 in several offensive categories in the conference including points per game and assists per game.
Freshman Leah High (Green Lane, Pa.) is second on the team in points with 14 on 6 goals and 2 assists. She has three multi-goal games this season including one against this week's opponent, Syracuse. She has been honored by the conference twice in the Weekly Honor Roll.
The third top scorer for the Wildcats is also a freshman in Lauren Wilson (Hummelstown, Pa.). Wilson has 13 points on the season with 5 goals and 3 assists. Wilson was honored for her play once by the Weekly Honor Roll.
Junior Amy Jackson (Columbia, Pa.) has also made significant contributions offensively this season with 3 goals and 3 assists for a total of 9 points as the top scoring returner.
Defensively, senior Megan Goelz (Yardley, Pa.) has put together an outstanding season. She leads the BIG EAST in saves per game with 6.39 and has two shutouts. She has a .723 save percentage and has notched a career high in victories with 8 while starting every game on the schedule this year.
The Villanova defense is led by another senior in Jordan Lynn (Charlottesville, Va.), who in addition to playing great defense, also has contributed a career-high three assists this season.
As Villanova saw last week, they will face a stiff challenge in the Orange. Syracuse boasts the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in Martina Loncarica, who has 18 points on the season with 5 goals and 8 assists.
They are led by offensive star Kelsey Millman who has put up 47 points on 17 goals and 13 assists. Millman is followed by Heather Susek (40 P, 17 G, 6 A) who scored the game winning goal against the Wildcats last Friday, and Leonie Geyer (29 P, 10 G, 9 A).
In net, Leann Stiver has allowed just 19 goals in 18 games for a 1.10 goals against average on the season. She also has four shutouts and a .689 save percentage en route to 14 victories.
Villanova faces a stiff challenge, but played Syracuse very tough in their lone meeting this season and Coach Milhous said, "Our team recognized that they can play strong against Syracuse and that we have the ability to beat them. It just gave our team that much more confidence for this Friday. Our girls weren't satisfied with the loss it just made them that much more hungry to play them again."
In the first semifinal matchup, No. 4 seed Louisville will take on top-seed Connecticut at 12:30 p.m. The winner of the first semifinal match will take on the winner of Villanova/Syracuse.
For the history of the program, this is their 10th appearance in the BIG EAST tournament with a record of 4-8. In their last appearance in 2006, Villanova fell to Providence by a score of 4-2. The program's last victory came in 2005 against Providence by a score of 4-1. They fell in the championship game in overtime by a score of 3-2 to Connecticut.
The BIG EAST conference is providing a great deal of coverage for the Championships and the banquet leading up to it. All games and the Championship Banquet are being streamed live and for free for the first time via the following website: http://www.bigeast.org/BIGEASTTV/LiveEventsSchedule.aspx.
Highlights and post game interviews can be found through this link: http://www.bigeast.org/BIGEASTTV/OnDemandFREE.aspx.
The link for the live stats during the semi final round can be found here: http://www.bigeast.org/Scoreboard/ViewScoreboard.aspx?sport=Field%20Hockey&date=11/04/2011.
Lastly, the overall BIG EAST Championship Central page can be found here: http://bigeast.org/Sports/FieldHockey/2011FieldHockeyChampionshipCentral.aspx.