Big Shots, Big Saves Propel Women's Soccer Past #28 Villanova

Sept. 26, 2008


BALTIMORE - Loyola women's soccer scored two goals off set plays, the winner coming off a corner kick in the 69th minute, and the Greyhounds defeated 28th-ranked Villanova, 2-1, in non-conference action on Friday afternoon at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field.

Loyola's victory snapped the Wildcats 25-game non-conference unbeaten streak during which they were 22-0-3, dating back to 2005.

Christina Gomez and Kristina Balfoort each scored for Loyola (1-5-2), and Lina Staropoli assisted on Balfoort's goal.

Goalkeeper Brittany Henderson had four saves in goal, none bigger than her final. She stopped a shot, one-handed, with under three seconds to play that would have tied the match.

"We have seen these games go the other way this season," Head Coach Katherine Vettori said. "But we have worked extremely hard, and we did just that today. To play the number 28 team in the nation, and to play them until the very last second of the game, it shows how much fight we have. We, as a coaching staff, are tremendously proud of them."

The physical and emotional tempo of the game was set early on, as both teams were whistled for fouls in the first three minutes.

After Theresa Ferraina took the ball away from a Wildcats defender, she was fouled from behind, and Villanova (7-3) was called for the offense.

Gomez took the direct kick from almost 24 yards out. She bent a high shot over the Villanova wall, bringing it down into the top right side of the goal.

Villanova goalkeeper Leann Kania got a fist on the ball, but it ricocheted off the bottom of the cross bar and into the back of the net, staking the Greyhounds to a 1-0 lead 2:52 into the match.

The Wildcats made an offensive charge immediately, and they garnered a corner kick from the right side 6:30 into the match. Megan Verdeur took the ball out of the error and put a shot that slid wide right of the goal.

Villanova's Justine Wollner and Verdeur each had shots on goal over the next 20 minutes, but Henderson saved both attempts.

Loyola's Lea Day drilled a shot from inside the 18 in the 31st minute, but a Villanova defender blocked it away from harm. Gomez then took another strong attempt in the 40th minute, but Kania made the save.

Day had another near-perfect change in the 51st minute, as she struck a high shot that went from left-to-right across the box and clanged off the crossbar.

A flurry of three Loyola fouls helped Villanova bring possession down field in the 59th minute, when the third infraction was whistled on the Greyhounds on the left side of the turf.

Rachel Schuyler set up for a direct kick some 40 yards out, and she drove a high cross to the far side. Amy Greco came through a mass of players and put a header into the right side of the net from inside the six-yard box.

Villanova nearly scored quickly after Greco's goal, as Henderson came out of the box and was called for a yellow card.

Schuyler's initial shot was blocked by Loyola's wall, but she gained possession of the rebound and struck a hard, low shot that Henderson saved in the middle of the goal mouth.

In the 66th minute, another Loyola foul set up another long direct kick by Schuyler. Verdeur got her head on this one, bit it went left of the goal and out of bounds.

Loyola turned on the offensive pressure, as Ferraina took a ball up the right side only to have it knocked over the end line.

Staropoli lined up the corner kick, and bent a hard kick that started on the end line and ended up just inside the six.

Balfoort emerged from the crowd and headed the ball left-to-right pas Kania and into the goal, putting Loyola ahead, 2-1, at the 68:56 mark.

"We lead the (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) with something like 50 corner kicks this year, but we had only finished one of them to this point," Vettori said. "Lina's service was perfect, and `Bal' timed it just right. It was great to finish something that we have been practicing so hard."

Loyola took the next two shots, one sliding effort by Day from the left side that was saved, and another blast by Kelly Farrell that was blocked.

Schuyler then lined up a hard shot from the top of the box, only to see it slip over the crossbar and out of bounds in the 81st minute.

Six fouls slowed play over the next eight-plus minutes, but Villanova mounted one last offensive challenge.

Deep in the right corner of the field, Loyola tried to push the ball off the sideline, but instead it went over the endline, setting up a Villanova corner kick with under 10 seconds left.

The ball was knocked out by the Greyhounds, but Erin Ryan picked up the loose ball and hit a hard shot, left-to-right, from the top of the box.

Henderson made a full-extension, one-handed punch save while diving through the air to secure the win as time expired.

The win was Loyola's first over Villanova in four attempts, after losing 3-0 in 1994, 3-0 in 2003 and 1-0 in 2004. It was also the Greyhounds second victory over a team from the BIG EAST Conference in 17 attempts.

The Greyhounds play their second of four-straight home matches on Sunday, September 28, at 1 p.m. against American.