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by Paul Regan

The field hockey team finished last season with a 7-12 (4-3 Big East) record, barely missing out on the Big East tournament. The team’s top offensive line, consisting of junior forward Leah High, sophomore forward Kayla Kenney and junior forward Jessica Swoboda, is returning and poised to build on its success from last year. Last season, High led the Wildcats in goals (12) and points (28), Kenney finished as the team leader in assists (9) and Swoboda contributed 17 points while leading the team in shots (65).

The team also returns their outstanding senior goalkeeper Alex Diekmann, who recorded 112 saves and boasted a 3.62 GAA in 2012. Diekmann was named to the All-Big East Second Team.

Picked to finish seventh in the Big East coaches’ poll, the Wildcats opened the 2013 regular season at home against Sacred Heart on Saturday. This was the first matchup with Sacred Heart, which finished with a 6-11 record last year, in program history.

Villanova lost the low scoring affair 2-1. At the 16:13 mark, Swoboda opened the scoring, converting a penalty corner by knocking a shot into the bottom of the cage. Swoboda was assisted by senior midfielder Keira Zambon and junior back Maddy Harding.

The ’Cats held a 1-0 lead at halftime in a defensive struggle.

Sacred Heart sophomore forward Christine Mace scored at 57:24 on the rebound of a shot by senior forward Stephanie Frye.

About ten minutes later, Frye found the back of the cage on an assist from senior midfielder Jen O’Malley to give the Pioneers a 2-1 lead late in the game.

Junior midfielder Lauren Wilson recorded five shots for Villanova, as the ’Cats outshot the Pioneers 12-10.

Villanova also had a 9-6 penalty corner advantage.

Zambon was a standout on both ends of the field, notching an assist on the offensive end and breaking up multiple passes in the defensive zone.

Both goalkeepers played well in the game. Sophomore goalkeeper Mary Alteper recorded seven saves for Sacred Heart while Diekmann had four for Villanova.

On Sunday, the Wildcats took on the best team in the nation, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in Newark at the University of Delaware’s Rullo Field. Villanova was shut out by North Carolina as the Tar Heels dominated from start to finish, winning by a score of 10-0. The loss dropped the Wildcats to 0-2 for the season.

North Carolina scored four goals in the first 20 minutes of the game and had an 8-0 lead by halftime.

Sophomore forward Casey Di Nardo opened the scoring on an assist from sophomore midfielder Emma Bozek just a couple of minutes into the game.

Senior back Janne Grove scored in the seventh minute, then added another in the 14th, assisted by sophomore back Emily Wold. In the 20th minute, Bozek recorded a goal of her own.

Grove, Di Nardo and sophomore midfielder Nina Notman each scored two goals apiece for the Tar Heels. Wold assisted three of those goals.

Diekmann recorded 12 saves in goal for the Wildcats and only allowed two shots past her in the second half.

North Carolina kept possession for the majority of the game and outshot Villanova 33-1. Harding recorded ’Nova’s only shot in the game. The Tar Heels also had 14 penalty corners compared to only one for the Wildcats.

This weekend was Harding’s first game action in over a year after missing the 2012 season with an injury.

The next game for Villanova is Saturday at home against Siena as the ’Cats will look to put these games behind them and get back on the winning side.

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