Oct. 9, 2011
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Sophomore goalkeeper Jami Kranich (Hamden, Conn.) made a number of big saves in both halves and posted her first shutout of the season as Villanova (7-7-2, 3-5 BIG EAST) made an early goal stand up for a 1-0 win over Cincinnati (5-7-4, 1-5-2 BIG EAST) at the West Campus Soccer Complex on a warm Sunday afternoon. Junior forward Heidi Sabatura (Lawrenceville, N.J.) scored just 4:32 into the contest for what proved to be the only goal of the game.
The biggest on-campus crowd of the season was on hand for Senior Day and the fans had already made their presence felt during a pregame ceremony to honor five graduating seniors. Once the game kicked off it was not long before the crowd had another reason to erupt, as Sabatura netted her fifth goal of the season in the fifth minute on a pretty header to the left corner of the net to open the scoring. Senior defender Megan Verdeur (Levittown, Pa.) lifted the ball through a crowd from the top of the 18-yard box and Sabatura was in position to score her fifth career game-winning goal, and second this season.
Sabatura scored on the first Wildcats shot of the game and from that point on there were still plenty of chances for Villanova to manufacture additional scoring chances - after all, the Wildcats did finish with a 15-12 edge in shots. The rest of the game after the Villanova goal, however, was a chance for the team's defense to stand out along the way to the Wildcats first shutout of the season.
The play of Kranich in goal was especially key for the team, with no play bigger than her save on a penalty kick by Emily Hebbeler in the 14th minute. A handball in the box by Villanova led to a penalty kick being awarded to the Bearcats and Hebbeler lined up for the attempt. She went right and Kranich easily knocked the ball away with a sliding save to maintain the Wildcats lead.
Kranich wound up making six saves on the game, including three in each half. The last of her stops came on a dangerous shot from close range on the right side in the 78th minute when she saved an attempt by Jazmine Rhodes with 12:38 to play. Villanova then dominated possession of the ball for the final 12 minutes to secure the outcome.
The big defensive plays weren't only made by Kranich, as the entire Wildcats back line chipped in. The play of second-year center backs Alexa Carugati (Newtown, Pa.) and Taylor Houck (Chalfont, Pa.) and the contributions of Verdeur and freshman Victoria Gersh (Silver Spring, Md.) on the outsides has helped solidify the Villanova defense of late and today's clean sheet was a clear product of their efforts.
In the 59th minute a shot along the goalmouth by Evi Ranson was first cleared away by Verdeur and an immediate rebound by Logan Ballinger tipped off the crossbar and was finally hauled away by the Wildcats defense. Kranich made a save of another Ballinger shot four minutes later and over the final 28 minutes Cincinnati was limited to just the one late attempt by Rhodes before the final horn sounded.
Senior midfielder Katy Nagy (Bellmore, N.Y.) was active everywhere on the field and took a team-high five shots for Villanova, while redshirt freshman midfielder Stephanie Myers (Downingtown, Pa.) attempted three shots.
Kristina Utley made three saves in goal for the Bearcats.
Today's win moved Villanova back into the final playoff spot in the BIG EAST National Division, one point ahead of Rutgers and four points ahead of Cincinnati with three regular season games remaining.
All three of those remaining contests for the Wildcats will be on the road, beginning at DePaul this Friday afternoon for a 3 p.m. Central time kickoff.