Chloe O’Neill’s first half strike held up as the winner in a game Villanova dominated for long stretches on Thursday over preseason No. 24 and defending SEC champions LSU.
The Wildcats dominated possession while outshooting the visitors 20-6 and outnumbering them on corners 13-1 and had a several chances to stretch their lead but in the end it was O’Neill’s refusal to quit on a long searching ball from Brice McInroy that led to Nova’s second straight win over the Tigers.
“It’s one thing to schedule big time programs, it’s another to get great results,” head coach Chris McLain was quoted saying after the match. “Beating the SEC Champions last year was special, but to beat them two years in a row shows that we are growing and learning how to play against some of the very best. What coach wouldn’t be proud of his players beating a Top 25 team like LSU? But Game 1 for 2019 is now in the books, we will let the players enjoy it for the next 24 hrs... then it’s time to focus on Game #2. We have to complete the weekend.”
The goal was the sixth career goal for O’Neill, a Plantation, Florida native who was named to the Big East All-Rookie team last season.
O’Neill and senior captain Kristin Barbour both led the attack on the day, but there were strong performances on both sides of the ball for the Wildcats. Sophomore goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff had five saves to record her second career clean sheet, Bri Austin had some dazzling moments working down the flank and was unlucky not to make the score sheet on the day with some of the chances she helped create and senior defender Conner Huggins was strong in the back and made some good runs forward into the attack.
Off the bench, rookie Jane Olcott impressed in the midfield in her debut and Virginia grad transfer Sam Rosette was a spark off the bench, recording a pair of shots on goal. McInroy, who assisted the lone goal, also made her debut. The former Penn Fusion Academy midfielder from Mechanicsburg, Pa. transferred after her first season at the University of Tennesseee.
“The goal was to dominate in this game; 20 shots, 13 corners; we can definitely build on that,” McLain said. “But as a staff, we were most proud on how well they battled. There is no real stats for that, but I can tell you, it was pretty awesome to see. It wasn’t the top 11, it was the whole squad.”
The Wildcats return home Sunday for a 1 p.m. kickoff against cross-town rival Saint Joseph’s, which opened their season with a 1-0 win at Drexel on Thursday. Gabrielle Vagnozzi had the game’s only goal in the 19th minute.
La Salle and Temple both opened their seasons against ACC opponents in North Carolina on Thursday. La Salle held No. 8 Duke off the board until the 67th minute and conceded another goal with three minutes left while trying to push for an equalizer. The Owls conceded three first half goals and lost 3-0 to No. 23 Wake Forest. Philadelphia native Morgan Basileo made 10 saves on the day, seven in the second half and the Temple offense mustered only a pair of shots all game and one of those on goal.
Penn played an exhibition game at Rhodes Field on Thursday night and topped Canadian club CS Monteuil by a 3-1 final.