Men, Women Play Villanova In 1st Round

The West Virginia University's men's and women's soccer teams will both play host to Villanova in the opening round of the Big East Tournament.

The men's team blanked Providence 3-0 Saturday at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium to close the 2007 regular season. With the win, the Mountaineers have finished third in the Big East Blue Division and hold a 12-5-1 overall record, 7-3-1 in conference play. WVU scored in the first half, for just the third time this season, when senior Andy Wright scored his fifth goal of the season off of a direct kick by Dan Stratford. Stratford's shot was batted out by the Providence goalie, when Wright volleyed a solid shot into an open net to give the Mountaineers a 1-0 lead at the half.

Sophomore Jason Bristol scored off of a header in the second half to give the Mountaineers a 2-0 lead at the 60 minute mark. Stratford kicked a high arching corner kick past the right post which was hooked in by Wright. Bristol battled PC's defenders to get a head on the ball to net his second goal of the season. And with just five minutes remaining in the match, Paradise scored his third goal of the season to put the game away. The freshman broke through PC's defenders, completing a 180 spin with the ball and shot a laser from 28 yards, skimming the top left corner of the net.

Stratford continued his record-setting ways with two assists on the night. The midfielder is WVU's all-time career assist leader with 26, ten more than the previous record set back in 1968. Freshman goalkeeper Zach Johnson earned his 11th shutout of the season, tying him with Nick Noble for second place in the record book on shutouts in a single season. The defense allowed PC just four shots and six corner kicks.

West Virginia will host Villanova in the first round of the Big East tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Last season, the Mountaineers advanced to the conference championship game, but fell to St. John's 1-0.

For the women, there will be a distinctly familiar look to the quarterfinal. For the fourth time in the five seasons, the West Virginia and Villanova women's soccer teams will square off in the conference tournament. The Mountaineers and Wildcats met in the 2003, 2004 and 2005 postseason tournaments with Villanova advancing in two of the three seasons. In the 2003 Big East semifinals, the two teams battled to a scoreless tie before Villanova advanced on penalty kicks, 5-4. A year later, the Wildcats posted a 1-0 win in Morgantown at the 2004 league quarterfinals.

"We knew Villanova would be in the mix," WVU head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. "Come tournament time we always seem to find a way to play each other."

When the ball kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m., it will be 14th-ranked West Virginia looking to repeat the success it had in 2005. That year, WVU posted a 4-2 win at Villanova, a rare high-scoring result. Twelve of the 14 games between Villanova and West Virginia have been decided by one goal, including the last two. In 2006, the Mountaineers needed double overtime to secure a 1-0 win. Two weeks ago on Oct. 21, WVU posted a 1-0 shutout at Villanova. West Virginia's win gave Villanova its first home loss of the season and its third straight over the Wildcats.

"We always play each other tough," says Izzo-Brown. "You can expect great defensive efforts when our teams get together. They are a good team with good goalkeeping. They are very organized defensively and we need to be ready to attack them."

The Wildcats are led by two-time Big East Goalkeeper of the Year Jillian Loyden. The senior All-America holds the school record for victories (48) and shutouts (37). Loyden and her defense have allowed 10 goals in 20 games this season. The Wildcats, 11-3-6, won Thursday's Big East first round match against USF, 2-0. The shutout was the 14th of the season for Villanova's defense, a staple of ‘Nova teams under 11th-year head coach Ann Clifton.

"Villanova is a bit more dangerous offensively this year with some talented front runners up top," WVU senior Natalie Cocchi said. "Their back line is always good and they have an outstanding goalkeeper. But there won't be any surprises because we've seen a lot of each other the past few years. We know what to expect from them and they know us just as well."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories