The storied Wildcat-Hoya rivalry will be in full force this weekend as the Georgetown women’s soccer team travels to Pennsylvania to take on the Villanova squad. The Hoyas head into the contest boasting an undefeated record, but the Wildcats also have an empty losses column, having won the first seven games of their season. The game is sure to be a tough matchup for Georgetown, especially since Villanova broke into the top 20 in the NSCAA coaches’ poll this past week.

The Wildcats’ momentum will definitely be an issue for the Georgetown team this weekend; Villanova is coming off an exceptional period of play, as they beat both University of Pennsylvania and Hofstra this past weekend. Georgetown Head Coach Dave Nolan remarked that both of those contests would have been significant challenges for the Wildcats, but that they played well and garnered two tough victories.

Villanova’s quick start could be due to their new coach – since acquiring Head Coach John Byford last February, the Wildcats have displayed a different playing style. Nolan explains that, while the Wildcats tend to score more goals under Byford, their defense also concedes more to its opponents. Their 3-2 win over Hofstra last week was their fourth consecutive game that ended in that score, showing that, while they are potent offensively, they do give away plenty of opportunities for counterattacks.

“Their strategy now is to attack and go forward, rather than sitting back and waiting for opportunities. They have two good forwards, [freshman] Kaitlin Ryan and [sophomore] Justine Wollner, who complement each other very well,” Nolan said. “[Wollner] is stronger and more aggressive, very clever and good at making things happen.”

Defensively, Villanova suffered a huge blow at the end of last season, when Jillian Loyden – arguably one of the greatest goalkeepers in Big East history – graduated, leaving a huge hole in the Wildcats’ defense. Their reliance on a less-experienced goalie will be very helpful for the Hoyas’ offensively: “They may not be as strong there,” Nolan said.

As for the Hoyas, Nolan hopes that his own defensive unit will be able to tighten up. “We need to be better organized defensively,” he said. “We need to not get into a running match with them, and we need to be a little bit tighter.” Nolan remarked that, thus far this season, his defensive players have performed well enough, but that the Villanova squad will be a new kind of challenge for his players. “They’ll be the best team we’ve played thus far this season,” Nolan said.

Of the upcoming game, freshman midfielder Samantha Baker said that win or lose, she is expecting a very quiet bus ride on the way back to Georgetown. “I’m expecting a lot of bruises,” Baker joked. “I expect it to be a hard game, and that we’ll be sleeping on the bus on the way home . but hopefully celebrating as well.”

Despite being a new addition to the team, Baker has already contributed hugely to the Georgetown offense, scoring four goals already this season. She’s also meshed well with the rest of her new teammates, figuring out how the team can work best together. “Kelly [D’Ambrisi] is very good with the ball, and when Toni [Marie Hudson] and I make the runs that we should be making, Kelly is good at connecting and finding the open lane,” Baker said. “If we make the effort for her, she’ll have another good game.”

But the conference-opener against Villanova will be a different atmosphere, not only for Georgetown’s new additions but also for the rest of the squad. “They’ll notice a big difference between a Big East game and any other game we’ve played,” Nolan said. That Villanova is also one of the team’s biggest rivals is another interesting facet of this matchup.

“There are some nerves about playing them,” Baker said. “But if I don’t let nerves get in the way, I’ll make offensive opportunities. As long as we stay calm, we’ll do well.”

After losing to Villanova 1-0 last season, the Hoyas will have a chance at redemption this Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Villanova, Pa.

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