by Gregory Habeeb
The field hockey team went two-for-two with a pair of dramatic 2-1 victories last weekend to improve to 6-5 this season.
The Wildcats defeated Rutgers University (6-6) on Saturday afternoon with a late goal for their first Big East win.
It was the same story on Sunday afternoon, as another last-second score lifted ’Nova over Bryant University (2-9).
Saturday’s game between the Wildcats and the Scarlet Knights got off to a slow start, as neither team scored a goal in the first half.
Rutgers struck first on a 41st minute goal by sophomore midfielder Sophie Wright, only to have the score equalized a mere 15 minutes later by senior midfielder Amy Jackson, who fired a shot into the goal from the top of the circle.
The game remained deadlocked until sophomore forward Leah High was able to tally her sixth goal of the season off of an assist from fellow sophomore forward Jessica Swoboda in the 68th minute. The score would stand until the final whistle.
Jackson noted the significance of the victory for a variety of reasons, one of which was the resilience she felt that she and her teammates displayed.
“I think it was really important for us to show we could come back like that,” Jackson said. “In the past we were known for being a team that crumbles when we are scored on first, but this game was different. We answered back and tied it, and then finished the game with only a few minutes left.”
Another reason for the importance of the win was that it stopped a four-game losing streak.
The Wildcats had dropped the last four matches coming into Saturday’s action.
The skid was in part due to a particularly difficult portion of schedule, which had Villanova playing three top five teams over the span of four games.
Head Coach Joanie Milhous understood the conditions surrounding her team’s slide.
“We went 4-1 and then played UNC (number one in the country at the time) and then Syracuse and UConn. So those are not bad losses,” she said.
Senior captain midfielder Amy Jackson echoed her coach’s statements.
“Those are tough games to win, and when you play them back to back like that it makes it even tougher,” she said.
Villanova was able to carry their late game magic over to Sunday’s action against Bryant.
The Wildcats struck first on a sophomore midfielder Lauren Wilson’s assisted score by Swoboda in the 18th minute.
As halftime approached, the Bulldogs were able to tie things back up thanks to a goal by sophomore defenseman Kelsey Hiltebeitel.
Neither team was able to take an advantage until the 68th minute, when ’Nova scored yet another last-minute goal. Freshman midfielder Kayla Kenney’s shot was deflected into the cage by Swoboda with just over 90 seconds remaining.
Kenney was credited with an assist on Swoboda’s second goal of the game.
The Hanover Township, Pa., native was able to capitalize on her good positioning in order to score the game winner.
“Kayla Kenney made a great run during the last two minutes and set up a wonderful scoring opportunity for us,” Swoboda said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to put the ball in the goal.”
Milhous was pleased with her sophomore forward’s game.
“Jess did a great job finishing today,” she said. “We were very happy with her performance. She works very hard and it was nice to see the outcome for her.”
The Wildcats will look to continue their winning streak Saturday afternoon when they travel to Lynchburg, Va., to take on Liberty University.