Villanova’s season ended Thursday night with a 2-0 loss to Xavier in chilly Omaha, Nebraska, but there were plenty of positives to take away from a season with a lot of adversity.
Six of the 11 players who started the season opener for the Wildcats were not available to play in Thursday night’s Big East semifinal. Playmaker Chloe O’Neill and Niki Molina were the latest injury losses for a team that despite so many injuries still managed to make the Big East semis for the first time since 2004 and finish with double digit wins for the first time since 2009.
“We lost so many great players to injury this season and our players just kept rising to that challenge,” head coach Chris McLain was quoted saying after the match. “What these players have done to raise this program back into the conversation of being a top team in this league is nothing short of remarkable.”
The Wildcats outshot Xavier 18-8 but unlike in the previous meeting when Villanova won 1-0 in late September, Villanova conceded in each half and were unable to get one past Xavier keeper Olivia Jenkins, who finished with five saves on the night.
“Tough game to lose, the average amount of shots that Xavier gives up is in the low single digits,” McLain said. ”No one has even had 10 shots in any single game against them. For us, taking 18 shots showed that we had a great game plan and our players were ready to play. I personally was more impressed we held them to only 8 shots. Unfortunately, that’s all they needed.”
Villanova finishes out the season with a 10-7-3 record and a 5-3-1 mark in conference play.