RICHMOND, Va. – Heading into the weekend, the Virginia Commonwealth University women's soccer knew it was facing two tough, physical matches against BIG EAST powers Villanova and St. John's.
On Friday evening, the Rams dished out some physicality of their own, but a late goal doomed the Black & Gold in a tough 2-1 loss to Villanova, a program that has reached the NCAA Tournament in six of the past eight years.
"Losses are never a good thing, but I'm really proud of the way our girls played today," Co-Head Coach Tim Sahaydak said. "With five or six freshman on the field against a very high-caliber opponent, we were able to play pretty much even soccer the whole game. Other than a brief lack of focus on the last goal, we were right there, neck and neck, with a perennial NCAA Tournament team in Villanova."
After some early pressure from the Wildcats, VCU got a chance of their own off a corner kick from freshman Sami Kuykendall (Vienna, Va.). Kuykendall found junior Meaghan Dullea (Virginia Beach, Va.) in the 21st minute, but her header clanked off the post to keep the game scoreless.
Villanova would respond with three shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of the first half, but freshman goalkeeper Megan Lynch (Lake Mary, Fla.) picked up three saves to head into the intermission with neither team on the scoreboard.
Just 11 minutes into the second half, the Wildcats finally lit the scoreboard as Katie Ryan was able to float a shot over top of Lynch and the VCU back line for a 1-0 Villanova lead.
It looked like Villanova would add to the lead when junior Molly Allen (Halifax, Nova Scotia) was given a red card for obstruction and the Wildcats were awarded a penalty shot. However, the freshman Lynch stepped up and picked up the save to keep VCU within one goal.
In the 75th minute, sophomore Bre White's (Manassas, Va.) transformation to a potent forward came full circle as she took a pass from classmate Carly Edgcomb (Princeton, N.J.) and sped through the Wildcat defense for a breakaway against the Villanova keeper. Advantage White, as she logged her first collegiate goal and evened the score at 1-1.
"That goal was huge for this team," Sahaydak said. "To see the heart and determination our kids showed was incredible. Being down a player and down 1-0 late against a very talented team isn't easy and they kept plugging away and it paid off."
However, 2009 BIG EAST Rookie of the Year Heidi Sabatura headed in a corner kick in the 85th minute to give Villanova a 2-1 lead in the 85th minute.
Late pressure from VCU wouldn't be enough as the late goal proved to be just enough to hand the Black & Gold their first loss of the 2010 campaign.
The Rams will be back on the pitch on Sunday for an 11 a.m. showdown with St. John's in the finale of the JMU/Comfort Inn Invitational.