In her first 10 years at Villanova, head coach Ann Clifton has led the program to its greatest successes both on and off the field. Under her guidance the team has averaged over a dozen victories per year and currently has sported a winning record with at least 10 victories in eight straight seasons. As the team heads into the 2007 season, Clifton owns a career record of 124-61-25 (.650) in her 11th season at the school. The Wildcats have had at least a .500 record in all 10 seasons under Clifton, and she currently ranks 35th among active Division I head coaches in career winning percentage.
Villanova has enjoyed its greatest run of success in the last six years, having made all five of its NCAA Tournament appearances in that span. Still, the list of broken records from the 2006 season is staggering. The Wildcats established new program marks for wins in a season (16) and conference wins in a season (7) last year, while also running off the team's longest winning streak (10 games) and longest unbeaten streak (15 games, 13-0-2). Those feats came thanks to one of the stingiest defensive units in the entire nation. The 11 goals allowed all season long were the fewest in a single season in team history. During the year, Villanova posted 15 shutouts, including one stretch of seven straight shutouts and a shutout streak of 769:52. The team was scored on just twice in its 15-game unbeaten streak to start the season. The Wildcats received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and once there advanced to the second round.
Individually, Clifton was named the Coach of the Year by the Southeast Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches' Association and junior goalkeeper Jillian Loyden was named the BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year for the second season in a row. Loyden also became the program's first-ever first team All-American and freshman Kelly Eagan became the team's first freshman ever to be chosen as a first team All-BIG EAST selection.
Clifton has generated an impressive list of individual accomplishments as well during her decade on the Main Line. One of just four coaches in the team's varsity history, she became the all-time winningest coach in program history in just her seventh season, getting win No. 74 on September 11, 2003 in a 3-2 win over Syracuse. On September 4, 2005, Clifton reached another milestone with her 100th career victory.
The Wildcats have grown into one of the elite programs in both the power-laden BIG EAST Conference as well as the national scene. Clifton's teams have produced a regular season record of 43-28-12 (.590) in conference games and a 4-3-3 mark in the NCAA Tournament.
Villanova captured the only BIG EAST championship in team history in 2003 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament that season. The Wildcats caught fire late in the regular season and reached the conference tournament thanks to that surge. The team ran off three straight wins over ranked teams to capture the conference title. In the NCAA Tournament, high-profile opponents Princeton, Virginia and BYU combined to score just one goal in three games against the Wildcats. On its home field in front of a record crowd, the Wildcats played BYU to a 0-0 tie before the Cougars advanced on penalty kicks. Villanova finished with a 15-5-5 record for the season, breaking the program mark for victories in a season for the second time in Clifton's tenure. For the team's accomplishments that season, Clifton was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year.
The success of Clifton's Wildcat teams have continued and built upon the University's "Tradition of Excellence." Villanova reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2001 and proved they belonged there with a 2-0 win over Penn in the first round. The Wildcats went back to the tournament in 2002 with a program-best record of 14-2-5, setting the stage for a magical 2003 season.
The first step towards the program's rise to national prominence came in 1999, when Villanova set what was then a school record with 14 wins. The Wildcats posted a 14-8-0 record that season and were selected to play in the ECAC Tournament. Led by a stifling defense, Villanova posted two straight shutout victories over Cornell and St. John's to capture the tournament title.
Individual honors for Villanova players have included three All-Americans, three BIG EAST Goalkeeper of the Year awards, 18 NSCAA All-Region selections and 25 All-BIG EAST honorees.
Off the field, one of the things that is most important to Clifton is developing strong leaders both in the classroom and in the community. Villanova was a recipient of the NSCAA Team Academic Award for nine consecutive years between 1998-06, and women's soccer players have been Big East Academic All-Stars a total of 121 times in her tenure.
The Wildcats have also been involved in a wide variety of community service projects. This past year the soccer team hosted numerous clinics and joined the men's basketball team and other Villanova teams in hosting the first annual "Running with the Wildcats" event that raised money for pediatric hospice providers. The Wildcats also are active in the "Soccer on the Streets" program which provides soccer equipment and clinics for underprivileged youth players. Through athletic department initiatives, Villanova has participated in the annual Adopt-A-Family program to provide gifts for families in need during the December holiday season, as well as the University's Pen Pal program with fifth and sixth graders.
Clifton arrived at Villanova from Randolph High School in Randolph, N.J., where she was the head girl's soccer coach from 1989-96. During her tenure at Randolph, she compiled an impressive 146-8-6 record, leading her team to five state championships in eight seasons. In addition to Randolph's team accomplishments, Clifton also guided 32 players to NJGSCA All-State honors, 10 players to NSCAA Regional All-America distinction, and three players to NSCAA All-America accolades.
During the fall of 1995, Clifton coached Randolph to the No. 1 ranking for secondary school teams in the United States. She has also garnered numerous individual honors, including being named the NSCAA Coach of the Year in 1994, New Jersey Girl's Soccer Coaches Association Large School and State Coach of the Year in 1993 and New Jersey Girl's Soccer Coaches Association North II Coach of the Year in 1992.
Clifton is involved with numerous soccer organizations, including the New Jersey Olympic Development State Soccer Teams. She was the head coach of the U-19 state team in 1992 and headed up the U-16 squad from 1993-94. Clifton served as the Director of Coaching for the New Jersey Olympic Development Program in 1998.
In addition to her coaching responsibilities, Clifton has served on numerous committees in recent years. She was a member of the NCAA Women's Soccer National Committee from 2002-05, and was the President of the Big East Women's Soccer Coaches' Association from 2003 until 2007. Clifton has also served on the NSCAA women's committee and is on the editorial staff of the magazine "All-Stater."
With the Philadelphia Charge calling Villanova Stadium home from 2001-03, Clifton added to her extensive soccer resumé. She was a member of the Philadelphia Charge Advisory Board, and also did the color announcing at the WUSA Philadelphia Charge Soccer games for Comcast.
Hailing from Randolph, N.J., Clifton received her bachelor's of science degree in health and physical education from East Stroudsburg University in 1986 and went on to receive her Master of Education with concentration in sports management from East Stroudsburg in 1988.
Clifton was also honored by her alma mater as the East Stroudsburg Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the year 2000. On September 28, 2002, she was inducted into the East Stroudsburg Athletics Hall of Fame. She currently resides in Royersford, Pa.