Wildcats use second-half defense to down St. Francis

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS, NY – After facing a two-goal deficit at the break, Villanova used a six-goal third period and a goal in the final minute of play to take a 16-15 win over St. Francis Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon at the SFC Aquatic Center.

Outscored St. Villanova (14-10, 3-2 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) Francis (5-12, 1-4 MAAC) 9-6 in the second half to come back for the win. Amanda Rice led all Wildcats with a season-high seven points, netting two goals and accounting for five assists. For a second straight game, Stella Byles led the team in scoring with three, joined by Kaysie Stuba who also netted a hat trick. Byles has scored at least three goals in each of the last four games for the Wildcats.

“We had better defense in the second half which won us the game and less turnovers than our morning game,” head coach Larry Sanders said. “This is a very resilient team, and we played a tough, physical game against a very physical team.”

The ‘Cats faced an early 3-1 deficit in the first quarter until Lauren Picard put Villanova within one at 3-2 with 3:16 remaining. A Terrier goal over 20 seconds later was answered by Adrienne Grimes, but St. Francis scored one in the final second to make it 5-3 through the first eight minutes.

St. Francis extended its scoring run to 3-0 nearly two minutes into the second quarter for a 7-3 lead. Villanova gained ground with a run of her own with Byles, Stuba and Rice cutting into the lead to get within one at 7-6 with 2:17 of the clock. The Terriers quickly netted back-to-back chances to get back to a three-goal lead before Joia McKinney connected for the final goal in the first half, making it 9-7 at the break.

After the Terriers scored in the first minute of play, Allie Hansen scored on a powerplay at the 7:02 mark, cutting it to a 10-8 contest. The teams exchanged goals until Villanova built another 3-0 with McKinney delivering a pass to Amelia Baca to grab its first lead of the day, 13-12. St. Francis tied it with a minute left, sending the game into the fourth all square at 13.

Villanova quickly set the tone in the fourth to regain the lead with Stuba’s third goal of the day. St. Francis took over yet again with back-to-back goals for a 15-14 advantage. Picard tied the contest on a player-up advantage. With 36 seconds remaining, an exclusion was called on the Terriers, setting the ‘Cats up for another chance to score a player-up. Byles found the back of the net in the powerplay, getting Villanova’s final goal with 21 seconds on the clock.

Freshman goalie Sarah Shaw picked up a third win on the season, making four saves, grabbing a steal and allowing six goals. Abigail Shelby started the game in net, making two saves and allowing nine goals.

The ‘Cats keep the New York trip rolling tomorrow with two more games, starting with a game at No. 24 Marist at 9 am from the McCann Natatorium in Poughkeepsie, NY

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