Sept. 7, 2007
PRINCETON, N.J. - A matchup between two elite and traditionally strong defensive teams was everything as advertised on Friday night at Powers Field, but Villanova (2-0-1) wound up playing to a scoreless tie on Friday night at Princeton (0-2-1). The Wildcats faced a stern test against an aggressive offensive performance from the Tigers, but withstood that pressure thanks to a steady defensive presence and timely plays from senior goalkeeper Jillian Loyden (Vineland, N.J.).
"The confidence a team plays with when you have someone like Jillian on the field is absolutely immense," Villanova head coach Ann Clifton said. "That is the difference in Jillian now from earlier in her career. Her confidence is soaring because she knows how good she is and knows the standard she has to uphold. Jillian thrives on the challenge to live up to her own high standards."
Princeton controlled possession in the early minutes of the game and had the first chances to score. Loyden had two early saves and helped to stem the pressure the Tigers had on the offensive end. Late in the half the teams traded possessions back and forth and Villanova had perhaps its best scoring chance of the period in the closing seconds.
A foul was called on Princeton with less than 30 seconds remaining and senior Nikki Mabery (Phoenix, Ariz.) had an opportunity to take a direct free kick from just outside the box. Her shot as time wound down was centered on the goalmouth but Tigers goalkeeper Maren Dale reached up to make the save and kept the game scoreless entering the intermission.
"After the opening minutes of the game I think we worked extremely hard to become dangerous in the final third," Clifton said. "I thought Nikki played a great game and Laura Sylvester did a great job of getting the ball up the field for us. Princeton's goalkeeper showed tonight that she belongs with the best out there because she stopped some very dangerous scoring opportunities."
Loyden made eight saves to keep the contest scoreless amid the pressure from Princeton. One of the best scoring chances of the game came for the Tigers in the 77th minute, when Alexandra Valerio fired a hard shot at the goal from inside 10 yards. Loyden made a gutsy save on the ball, stopping the shot at close range for one of her five saves after halftime.
The Wildcats generated seven corner kicks in the game, including four in the last 45 minutes of regulation. Despite good looks initially on the kicks sent in by senior Kayce Blandford (Columbia, Md.), Villanova had several shot attempts blocked by an opposing defender before the ball could reach the goal.
A crowd of 350 at Princeton Stadium cheered every play in a tense game and was near unanimous in its support for the visiting Wildcats. Villanova has five players on its roster from New Jersey and several others within near distance of Princeton. In addition, junior midfielder Kristen Verbit (Newtown, Pa.) is the daughter of Princeton football defensive coordinator Steve Verbit.
Meanwhile, the Wildcat back line and increased energy on the attack helped Villanova limit Princeton to only two corners in the game. One of those attempts came in the first overtime period, when Loyden registered two of her saves.
Although the second half of regulation featured an energized Wildcat offense, the period was not without scoring chances for the Tigers. Princeton had a dangerous opportunity in the 51st minute when Jen Om dribbled in towards the goal for a 1-on-1 opportunity. However, Loyden came out two steps and dove to intercept the ball before Om could get a shot off. She repeated the trick in the 70th minute, sliding in front of the goal to take a ball away from Sarah Peteraf.
Villanova returns to the pitch on Sunday afternoon at home when it hosts Robert Morris at 1 p.m.
NOTES: The Wildcats have yet to allow a goal on the season through the first three games and have played 290:00 scoreless minutes of defense ... Loyden posted her 28th career shutout in the game and moved within one of tying the all-time school record held by Chrissy Dolan (2000-03) ... Villanova's last 0-0 draw came at home against Providence last season (Oct. 1, 2006) ... The Wildcats are 5-5-6 in games played in the state of New Jersey in the 11-year tenure of head coach Ann Clifton ... Villanova is also 10-3-3 versus Ivy League teams in that span.