Building on Momentum a Key for Wildcats Entering Four Straight Road Games
Oct. 17, 2008
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The age-old argument as to whether the glass is half-full or half-empty could easily have been tossed about after Villanova's game against Notre Dame last Sunday afternoon.
On the half-full side, the Wildcats rallied from a two-goal deficit in the second half against the nation's premier team and forced overtime by tying the game with just over eight minutes left in regulation. Villanova arguably played the Fighting Irish closer than any other team this season in what was one of its best all-around performances of the year.
As for the half-empty side, the Wildcats had a four-game shutout streak snapped and lost a heartbreaking decision in overtime against a top-ranked opponent with, conceivably, a chance to bolster its postseason resume.
Now for the reality. Villanova played some of its best soccer of the season against Notre Dame. In between the second and third goals scored by the Fighting Irish, the Wildcats played more than 89 minutes of scoreless defense, nearly the equivalent of a complete game shutout. Villanova also broke through against a defense that had allowed just five goals all season long, tallying a pair of scores despite having just four shots on goal the entire afternoon. In nearly every facet of the game, the Wildcats looked like a team on the rise.
This recent climb by Villanova - in its level of play and in its move up in the Big East standings - will need to serve the team well over the next two weeks. After playing five straight home games, the Wildcats are now finished with their regular season home schedule and will play four straight games on the road to close out the regular season. Villanova is 4-2 on the road this season but will not have played away from home in exactly three weeks entering Friday's contest at Pittsburgh. Just one of the team's first seven Big East contests has been on the road.
The same factors that enabled the Wildcats to go 4-1 on the recent homestand can do the same on the road. Villanova has been relentless when it has possession of the ball and has scored multiple goals in four straight games. The Wildcats have 11 games with multiple goals this season, a figure not surpassed since 2001 and one that is just three off the school record of 14 set in 1993.
The defense has made significant strides as well. Villanova's shutout streak extended to 384:10 before the first Notre Dame goal last Sunday. The Wildcats allowed just 6.2 shots on goal per game during the homestand, and just 4.0 attempts per game with the Notre Dame game excluded.
The road swing begins on Friday night at Pitt, where Villanova has won its past three games in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Overall the Wildcats lead the series 8-2-1, with the one tie being a scoreless affair last season on a rainy day at the West Campus Soccer Complex. Villanova outshot the Panthers by a 30-7 margin in that came but both teams came up empty on the scoreboard.
Hawkins and Ryan Providing Scoring Punch: Junior Grace Hawkins (Northport, N.Y.) and freshman Kaitlin Ryan (Wayne, N.J.) have been providing a heavy scoring load for the Wildcats of late. The pair combined to score eight of the 12 goals for Villanova during the five-game homestand and provided three of the four game-winning tallies. Hawkins and Ryan are currently tied for the team lead with eight goals apiece for the season.
Williams Steps Up Play in Goal: Junior Molly Williams (Hinsdale, Ill.) has done a remarkable job in the net for the Wildcats in their recent games. Over the last five outings Williams has a 0.59 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, a span in which she has made 27 saves and allowed only three goals. She was rewarded for her performance this week by being named to the weekly BIG EAST honor roll for the first time in her career.
Hardiman Among Nation's Best: Senior Erin Hardiman (Galloway, N.J.) enters play this weekend ranked fourth in the entire nation in assists per game. Hardiman has 13 assists in Villanova's 15 games this season, an average of 0.87 per game. Her 13 assists are the second-highest total in the country behind the 15 (in 17 games) for Cynthia Morote-Ariza of Loyola (Ill.). Hardiman has set a Villanova single-season record with her 13 helpers this season and has already surpassed the previous program mark of 10 by three. Hardiman has had at least one point in four straight games.
Powerful in the Region: A perennial power in the Mid-Atlantic Region, Villanova has been dominant in recent years against local competition, going 16-2-6 (.792) against teams from Pennsylvania and New Jersey since the early part of the 2005 season. The Wildcats are 3-1 in such games this year, falling only to Rutgers while posting wins over La Salle, Penn and Seton Hall.
This Date in Villanova History: Villanova won three straight games on this date from 1984-93 and then lost three straight between 1999-04. The first of the three wins was a 3-0 triumph over Franklin & Marshall in 1984. The Wildcats also defeated Monmouth in 1990 (1-0) and Vermont in 1993 (5-3 in overtime). Villanova trailed the game against Vermont three different times but Megan Schlussel scored with 9:57 left in regulation to force overtime and then netted goals in each of the overtime periods to lift the Wildcats to the first of what became five wins in the final seven games of the 2003 season.
Villanova has been shutout in each of its three losses on this date, including games against Boston College in 1999 (4-0), Princeton in 2001 (1-0) and Connecticut in 2004 (3-0).
Up Next: Villanova travels to West Virginia for a 1 p.m. contest on Sunday. This is the third straight season and fifth time in the last five years that the Wildcats will play in Morgantown. Villanova has played regular season games at the Mountaineers' home site in 2004 and 2006 and also visited Morgantown for postseason contests in 2004 and 2007.
Kickoff: 7 p.m.