If this is what playoff soccer looks like every year, then the new Big East is in for a very entertaining conference tournament.
Elise Wyatt scored on a breakaway 10 minutes into the game and the competition got heated and chippy as DePaul weathered a barrage of shots to defeat Villanova 1-0 in the first round of the Big East women’s soccer tournament.
The Blue Demons were coming off of a 3-0 loss to St. John’s, the first game all season where they gave up more than two goals. During the regular season, DePaul allowed a conference-low 15 goals and it was the defense that stepped up again against Villanova to secure a nail-biting victory.
The win didn’t come easy. DePaul’s offense remained in a rut and Villanova controlled play. In the second half, the Wildcats absolutely dominated a tired Blue Demon squad, but couldn’t put a ball past goalie Alex Godinez. Head coach Erin Chastain didn’t use a single substitution in the final 45 minutes and her weary squad had to withstand a torrid display by Villanova’s offense. Officially, DePaul was outshot 19-9 but it appeared a lot worse because the Wildcats had numerous opportunities in the box off of free kicks that no one was able to get a boot on.
Chastain had a solid reason for not subbing in the second half.
“I felt like it was a very physical game. I felt like it was cold out and I just didn’t feel like a sub would be able to come in and adjust to the feel of the play,” Chastain said.
Indeed, the constant rain and foul-filled match would have been very difficult to adjust to, even if the playoff atmosphere had everyone fired up.
Wyatt’s goal was the lone tally. After receiving a pass and staying onside, Wyatt got in behind the defense before chipping the ball over the goalie’s head and following the ball excitedly as it travelled into the net.
“I’ve always wanted to be in a position where I’m one-on-one with a goalie because it’s an exciting goal to score,” Wyatt said. “Amber (Paul) played an amazing slip ball and Erin has been telling us to make those runs, make those runs, make those runs. I knew the keeper was coming out…I chipped it over and it was over her and bouncing into the net.”
The goal was necessary because it’s a wonder that Villanova didn’t score in the final 80 minutes. The domination was so thorough that Villanova players were laughing in disbelief at the fact that their team was unable to break through.
The band and the crowd got behind the Blue Demons, who played in front of several of their fellow athletes and had the privilege of women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno waving a DePaul flag while standing on the roof of Corcoran Hall, something he does for the team a few times per year.
“It’s awesome,” Chastain said. “A 1 p.m. game mid-week is hard to get any fans for so to see that kind of support from other teams and again from Coach Bruno… it’s just a tribute to the family atmosphere we have here at DePaul.”
DePaul’s next game is Friday, Nov. 8, against powerful Georgetown in Milwaukee. If the Blue Demons pull out a victory, they’ll have a spot in the Big East title game Sunday, Nov. 10.