Wildcats Improve to 2-2-2 with the Victory
Villanova Concludes Three-Game Week with First Season Win
Sophomore Rhea Barghash Nets Game-Tying Goal to Keep Wildcats Alive
Wildcats Open 31st Year of Varsity Soccer on August 23rd vs. Radford
Wildcats Welcome Five Members for the Class of 2017
Under Byford's watch Villanova has evolved into a well-balanced team at both ends of the field thanks to a steady influx of talented players into the program. Over the past five seasons the Wildcats have been one of the most potent offensive teams in the BIG EAST with dominant performances from Katie Ryan, Heidi Sabatura and Erin Hardiman while impressive defensive performances from Jami Kranich and Taylor Houck have set the stage for Villanova's reputation as a strong and sound defensive squad.
Hardiman was named the BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year in Byford's first season as head coach in 2008, while Sabatura garnered Rookie of the Year honors one year later. In both cases it was the first time ever that a Villanova player won those specific major awards. In addition Ryan became the third forward in school history to be a first team All-BIG EAST pick multiple times in her career.
Player development has been at the forefront in Byford's time as head coach. Current senior goalkeeper Jami Kranich was selected to represent the United States in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in August of 2012, making her the first Wildcat to ever participate in a World Cup event while still a Villanova student.
In all, Byford has coached his Wildcats to 13 All-BIG EAST selections with nine of those honors going to forwards and midfielders in just six years. Villanova had two offensive players garner all-conference honors in 2010, 2011 and 2013, with Sabatura getting a second team nod and freshman midfielder Emily Damstrom receiving a spot on the All-Rookie team last season. The Wildcats have also had four NSCAA All-Region selections under Byford's tutelage.
The 2013 season marked a return to prominence for the Wildcats, who earned their first berth back into the BIG EAST Championship since the 2009 season. The Wildcats upended national powerhouse Georgetown for the final game of the regular season in a 1-0 thriller at the Villanova Soccer Complex to clinch a first-round home game of the conference tournament. With the win, Villanova claimed the 4th seed in the BIG EAST National Division but ultimately fell to the DePaul Blue Demons by a 3-0 mark to end the 2013 campaign. The contest marked the 15th appearance in the BIG EAST tournament in Wildcat history. Additionally, Sabatura ended her career as one of the top performers in program history and matched the all-time career assists leader with 28 assists. Her 76 career points placed her seventh on the all-time points leaderboard.
When the 2009 season began, Byford and his staff were faced with the task of molding one of the youngest Villanova teams in years into a winner in the highly competitive BIG EAST Conference, a job made even more daunting by the stacked National Division that the Wildcats play in. The results were an astounding success, as Villanova returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 while finishing the year with an 11-6-5 record. It marked the 11th consecutive year with a winning record and at least 10 victories for the Wildcats, as well as the program's 13th straight non-losing season.
Best of all during the 2009 campaign was that the aforementioned younger players were at the forefront of the team's success. The team received more than two-thirds of its scoring and better than 60 percent of its assists from underclassmen.
The underclassmen were not the only players that stood out in 2009, nor was the squad solely an offensive powerhouse. Kelly Eagan wrapped up an incredible collegiate career by earning first team All-BIG EAST recognition for the third time in her career. She wound up starting every single team game over four years and became a four-time NSCAA All-Region pick, only the third player in school history to earn that many accolades.
The merits of the Villanova student-athletes extend to the classroom as well. The team has counted 84 BIG EAST Academic All-Stars during the past five seasons, in addition to five selections to the Capital One Academic All-District team and 10 honorees on the Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area squad.
In 2008, Byford took over a team that had graduated seven starters from the previous year and returned just half of its scoring from the season prior to his arrival. Byford's inaugural Villanova team started the year with seven consecutive wins while scoring at least two goals in each game. The Wildcats had never had a streak of seven straight games with multiple goals, while the team reached a 7-0 record for just the third time in its history.
The 2008 season featured a number of noteworthy individual performances both on and off the field. Senior Erin Hardiman was named the BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year on the strength of a team-high 22 points, including a single-season school record 14 assists to go along with four goals scored. Hardiman was also named an NSCAA third team Academic All-America selection.
Byford is in his second stint with the Wildcats, having previously been an assistant coach on the Main Line in 1995 and 1996. Prior to returning to Villanova, he spent three highly successful seasons as the head coach at Loyola (Md.). The Greyhounds won regular season titles in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) in 2005 and 2006 and then won the league's tournament championship in 2007. His teams posted a 35-18-7 (.642) overall record and a nearly unblemished 22-1-4 (.889) mark in regular season conference games.
In his three seasons as head coach, Byford had his players earn All-MAAC honors 28 times, including 10 first team selections. Postseason awards for the Greyhounds also included one Offensive Player of the Year and two Defensive Players of the Year. In addition, several players were named to the conference Academic Team each year.
In 2007, Byford led his team to an undefeated record in conference play for the second time in three years. Loyola finished the year with a 10-6-5 record and went 5-0-4 in MAAC play. The Greyhounds went on to win their first conference tournament title under Byford and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Byford earned MAAC Coach of the Year honors in 2006, when Loyola went 10-7-2 and posted an 8-1 conference mark. The Greyhounds captured their second straight regular season conference championship and had 11 players earn all-conference honors.
After spending two seasons as an assistant coach at Loyola, Byford took the reigns as head coach in 2005 and led the team to a 15-5 overall record and perfect 9-0 mark in conference play. The Greyhounds were ranked as high as fifth in the Mid-Atlantic region during the season. As an assistant coach with the Greyhounds in 2003 and 2004, Byford helped coach the team to consecutive league titles and back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Prior to joining the Loyola coaching staff, Byford was the Director of Coaching and Player Development for the Mandeville (La.) Soccer Club. He worked with coaches from the recreational level and travel teams and was responsible for coaching education. He also set curriculums for different age and ability levels of players, wrote articles for the club newsletter and evaluated the players and coaches involved with the club.
An experienced coach who has had success at many different levels of soccer, Byford also has collegiate head coaching experience from Saint Joseph's University (1999-2000) and Delaware Valley College (1994).
After being named the first head coach at Delaware Valley when the program ascended to a varsity sport, Byford came to Villanova in 1995 and served as an assistant coach for two seasons. The Wildcats won 27 games during that span and posted at least a .500 record in BIG EAST play each season. From Villanova, Byford went on to Kutztown University and was an assistant coach for the men's program.
Byford also has had success in the ODP ranks, most recently working with the Maryland state ODP program during his time at Loyola. He previously had been the head coach for the Region I ODP U-13 Girls team from 2000-02 and was an assistant coach of the squad before that. In all, Byford had seven years of experience with the Region 1 girls ODP squad and six years of experience with the Eastern Pennsylvania Girls ODP program. His team won the ODP national championship in 2002 and the regional championship in 1998, 2001 and again in 2009.
Byford began his coaching career at Villa Joseph Marie High School in Holland, Pa., where he was the assistant coach of the 1993 state championship team. He also led the Downingtown High School girls' soccer team to the league and district championship and to the state playoffs for the first time in school history in 1998.