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Defense Comes Up Big as Wildcats Tie No. 13 Maryland, 0-0
Junior center back Alexa Carugati and the rest of the Villanova back line was terrific in a 0-0 draw with Maryland on Sunday afternoon.

Aug. 19, 2012

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VILLANOVA, Pa. - A steady and composed effort throughout the entire contest and big plays when they were needed the most was the storyline for the Villanova (1-0-1) defense in a 0-0 draw with No. 13 Maryland (1-0-1) at the West Campus Soccer Complex on Sunday afternoon. Senior goalkeeper Kelsey Quinn (Mt. Airy, Md.) made three saves in each period of regulation and the Wildcats back line kept the Terrapins from recording a shot on goal in the two extra frames in the team's second consecutive shutout to begin the season.

"We have not kept too many clean sheets the last couple of years but this group takes it personally when a team scores against us," Villanova head coach John Byford said. They have the desire and the organization to be successful and it is great for them to have two clean sheets to start the year."

Two shutouts in as many games for the Wildcats defense is one more than the team's total from all of last season in 19 games. Junior center backs Alexa Carugati (Newtown, Pa.) and Taylor Houck (Chalfont, Pa.) were exceptional against Maryland and with the addition of outside backs Kendra Jones (Hershey, Pa.) and Kathryn Rayner (Needham, Mass.) Villanova looks to have one of its strongest defensive units in the past few years.

"Defending is a mentality and the group we have in the back now gets that mentality," Byford said.

There were long swings in offensive momentum for much of the game even though neither side found the back of the net. In the second period of regulation for example, the teams combined for a total of 12 shots, with Maryland holding a 7-5 edge in chances for the period. From the opening of the period until the 69th minute however, the Terrapins fired off six unanswered shots and forced Quinn to make two of her six saves in order to prevent a goal.



Possession swung back to the Wildcats during the latter half of the period and Villanova owned a 5-1 advantage in scoring chances during the final 11 minutes of regulation. In the two overtime periods the Wildcats tallied the only two shots on goal but Maryland accounted for the final five shots in the contest over the last five-plus minutes.

"There was a period in the second half where Maryland had a lot of possessions and put pressure on us but in the last 10-12 minutes before overtime we started to play and started to press for the ball," Byford said. Some of the personnel we had subbed out came back into the game with a lot of energy. We did some great things towards the end of regulation and carried that into overtime."

Senior forward Heidi Sabatura (Lawrenceville, N.J.) and freshman midfielder Rhea Barghash (Watchung, N.J.) engineered the two best scoring chances of the game for either team late in regulation and the first overtime period, respectively.

In the 83rd minute Sabatura had a look that narrowly missed the right side of the net and in the 97th minute a blast by Barghash hit the crossbar and continued out of bounds after initially appearing to be tipped away by Terrapins goalkeeper Shannon Zickler, who finished with four saves.

"We created two great scoring chances and the players were a little bit disappointed with the result but at the end of the day this was a great game for us against a very good team," Byford said.

Freshman midfielder Renee Hart (Bethesda, Md.) had a terrific game and led the Wildcats with three shots while displaying the explosive speed that makes her a key player on the field. Sabatura, Barghash and sophomore forward Stephanie Myers (Frisco, Texas) chipped in two shots apiece.

In the first half of regulation Maryland owned a 7-3 edge in shots and a 10-1 margin in corner kicks, although the flow of play was more balanced than those numbers would suggest. It wasn't until just after halftime that the Terrapins really started to control the ball for long periods of time. Of all the plays made by the Villanova defense in the game, one of the biggest came in a critical spot in the 52nd minute.

Maryland forward Hayley Brock broke away and had a potential 1-v-1 encounter with Quinn looming but Carugati caught up to her just inside the 18-yard box and made a sliding stop to limit Brock to taking an off-balance shot that went wide left of the net. Carugati and Brock collided on the play and Carugati was forced to leave the game for a short time after both players appeared to be a little shaken up.

Right around the time Carugati returned to the game - in the 76th minute - the Wildcats started to see more possessions and better looks on the offensive end. It wasn't hard to see the correlation.

"When Alexa is in the game everyone knows she is going to make some big tackles and also keep the rest of the defense in line," Byford said. "Alexa leads by example. Whether it is during a game or in training she does everything 100 percent and it was a big lift for the team when she came back onto the field."

Villanova plays its third straight home game to open the season this coming Friday afternoon against Drexel at 4 p.m.