PHILADELPHIA Penn proved that it could play with an extremely tough team tonight, twice taking the lead on Villanova before ultimately falling in a heartbreaker, 5-4 in overtime.
The Wildcats entered the game with a reputation of being a difficult team to play against. They proved their reputation correct as they came out flying, controlling the pace of play from the opening whistle. It took all of 2:23 for the Cats to get on the board as Lauren Wuzzardo continued her stellar first season, scoring off a Villanova penalty corner. The goal, assisted by Stephanie Campbell and Emily Donaldson gave Nova a 1-0 lead.
The score remained 1-0 for the next 27 minutes as both teams traded possessions and attempted to establish a flow to the game. The Quakers generated some offense at the 29:00 mark of the first half and were rewarded with a penalty corner. What at first appeared to be a broken play turned into a blessing in disguise for Penn as Kathryn Burke gathered an errant insertion and fired a pass to Kara Bolger. Bolger then found Rachel Eng all alone in front of the net and Eng did not hesitate to deposit a shot into the net, knotting the game at 1-1.
Eight minutes into the second half, the floodgates opened and offense became the name of the game. Villanova generated three consecutive penalty corners, keeping pressure on the Quakers. On the third corner, the Cats were able to solve Penn goalkeeper Alanna Butera and up the score to 2-1, Wildcats. Campbell added a goal top her point total for the game as she was the final portion of a well-executed play from Sam Coveleski and Donaldson.
Nova’s lead was short-lived as the next three minutes belonged to Meghan Rose. 53 seconds after the Wildcats took the lead, Penn earned a penalty corner of its own. Meredith Moran inserted the ball to Rose who promptly fired a shot past Villanova goalkeeper Maura McCormick. As quickly as Villanova took the lead, it was gone.
Rose was not done there. Two minutes later, Jamie Calahan broke into the circle and raced to a loose ball. McCormick came out of her net and tripped up Calahan, who drew a penalty shot in the process. Rose was chosen to take the penalty shot. She took her time to line up her shot, focused on the mark, and fired a quick shot to the left of a diving McCormick. Penn now had its first lead of the game, 3-2.
The Wildcats rallied to tie the game, 3-3, on a goal by Catherine Somits at the 57:41 mark. She followed up a rebound of a Donaldson shot and found the back of the net.
Nicole Black continued her hot streak for Penn as she gave the Quakers their second lead of the game with under five minutes remaining in the game. Burke recorded her second assist of the game as she fed Black in front of the net with a deft pass from 25-yards away, giving Penn a 4-3 lead.
The Wildcats showed why they entered the game on an eight-game winning streak as they were resilient, never halting the offensive pressure in the face of adversity. Penn allowed the Cats to continuously enter the circle and draw penalty corners in the last two minutes of play. It was off a corner with only 50 seconds remaining in regulation that Jenn Nazarethian banged home the rebound of a Campbell shot to tie the game, 4-4.
Overtime started with both teams on fast-break rushes. Penn had a 3-0n-1 that was thwarted with solid defensive play. The Cats quickly turned in transition and found themselves all alone, three Cats rushing in on Butera. She showed no fear and rushed out from her position and forced Somits into a weak shot that Butera easily smothered.
It was Wuzzardo’s turn to shine again as she broke in on the right side and weaved her way past Penn defenders. She released a quick shot that eluded Butera, giving Villanova the 5-4 win and dashing Penn’s hopes of extending its winning streak.
After the game, head coach Val Cloud was proud of the way her team performed, at least for the first 68 minutes.
“We need to be more aware of time management,” she said, “We gave up way too many corners late in the game. At that point of the game, we need to protect our circle and not allow such pressure.”
Cloud knew coming into the game that Villanova would press the issue and look to take an early advantage.
“Villanova likes to take charge of the game,” she said, “We needed to be the aggressor in the early going and we didn’t do that. We did in the second half and we took the lead. We tried to keep fresh. We definitely used our depth tonight.”
While a game that features nine goals may not look as if it included strong defense, the score could have been even higher if it wasn’t for some strong play on the defensive end by Nicole Levi and continued solid goaltending from Butera.
Levi locked down the opposition on countless corners. By the time the ball was set for the shot, Levi had already rushed out to the point and altered the play. She made such plays at two crucial times; first with under a minute to go in the first half and then again immediately after Penn took the 4-3 lead.
Butera made nine saves on the night, none bigger than with 19 minutes remaining in the game. Somits stood alone at the top of the circle after a penalty corner and one-timed a shot on goal. Butera dove to her right and made a blocker save, at the time preserving a 3-2 lead for the Quakers.
Cloud feels that if her team continues to score goals like they have in the last three games, Penn will win more than they lose.
“We’ve been scoring a lot lately, which is good. At the same time, it makes it disappointing to not hold onto leads like we did tonight.”
The Quakers return to action this weekend as they travel to Bucknell on October 5 and Lock Haven on October 7.