William and Mary fell 16-12 to Villanova in its season opener Saturday, Feb. 8, in a game where the Tribe was on the defensive throughout but showed resiliency in both halves to keep it close.
After the Tribe failed to convert on its opening offensive possession, a foul on sophomore attacker Belle Martire gave Villanova a power play. Senior goalkeeper Elsa Rall saved two Wildcat shots, but the rebound bounced to Villanova attacker Liz Trojan, who fired it into the net to make it 1-0 just three minutes into the game.
The Tribe regained possession on the ensuing faceoff and pushed the ball into scoring position. After a series of passes, freshman attacker Sarah Cipolla found sophomore midfielder Grace Ahonen in front of the goal, who converted to tie the score.
Villanova responded right away, with midfielder Grainger Rosati slipping a pass to attacker Katie Comerford just outside the crease and Comerford finishing to put the Wildcats back up one. The momentum remained with the visitors, who saved a Tribe shot and went coast-to-coast to score another close shot to extend the lead to 3-1 with 24 minutes left in the first half.
The Tribe regained possession and sophomore midfielder Sophia King found freshman midfielder Caroline Donavan on the right side, who whipped a sidearm shot 10 yards and just over the goalkeeper’s shoulder to pull the College back within one.
The Wildcats gained another power play on the following possession after a foul on freshman midfielder Sydney Sloan and worked the ball around the net. Comerford then slipped a pass to attacker Brittany Bruno, who eluded Rall to make it 4-2.
Villanova advanced again but a difficult save from Rall gave the Tribe a look on offense. Ahonen carried the ball around behind the net and fired a pass to a cutting Cipolla, who received it in front and launched a shot into the back of the net to cut the lead to 4-3 with just over 17 minutes to play in the half.
A Tribe turnover was then picked up by Bruno, who carried it from the midfield line into the attacking zone and found Comerford, who scored her second goal of the afternoon from point-blank range. The Wildcats retained the following face-off and after a lengthy possession, Bruno located attacker Julianne Puckette in front of the goal, who was able to finish while falling to the ground from a Tribe check, giving Villanova its largest lead of the game at 6-3 with under 14 minutes remaining in the period.
Fully seizing the momentum, the Wildcats drove down into Tribe territory once again and Comerford netted her third shot of the game to extend the advantage to 7-3. After a Tribe turnover, Villanova once again motored down the field and Bruno scored her second goal of the day to make it 8-3 with less than 12 minutes remaining in the half.
The Tribe regained possession on the following face-off and junior attacker Sophie Kopec made a run toward the right side of the goal and fired a shot into the top left corner to keep the College within four. On the next series, the Tribe once again secured possession and after a Wildcat foul, senior attacker Meredith Hughes slipped a low shot past the goalkeeper to make it 8-5 with just over 10 minutes to play in the period.
Another Villanova foul on their own end gave the Tribe another opportunity on the next series, giving the College a two-player advantage. Martire seized the moment, slicing into the middle and firing a shot into the top right corner to score the Tribe’s third straight goal and pull within two.
A yellow card assessed to Bruno negated a Wildcat goal on the following possession, but the Wildcats regained the ball and midfielder Libby Mckenna eluded Rall to put Villanova back up three with less than three minutes remaining in the half.
Rall’s eighth save of the half gave the Tribe another look on offense after that, which resulted in Cipolla sprinting around the left side of the goal and firing a wrap-around shot into the right side of the half to make it 9-7 Wildcats with 1:04 left in the period, which remained the score at halftime.
Villanova came out aggressively to begin the second half, with Comerford nailing her fourth goal of the afternoon on a free position shot to extend the lead to three after less than a minute of second half action. A Tribe foul then gave the Wildcats another free position shot, which Trojan rocketed into the top left corner to push the lead to 11-7.
The Tribe responded on the following series with Donovan cutting through the middle of the field and scoring her second goal of the game to bring the Tribe back within three. The College advanced down the field again but a turnover gave Villanova an opportunity to extend the advantage. They did just that, with Bruno scoring her third goal of the game off Comerford’s second assist.
The Wildcats kept the pressure on, with a Tribe foul resulting in another free position shot, which Rosati converted to make it 13-8 with just over 20 minutes remaining in the game. Another Tribe foul, their 24th of the game to that point, gave Villanova another free position shot, but Rall’s 13th save of the game kept the deficit at five.
After several minutes with no scores, Martire drove down and evaded the Wildcat goalkeeper to score her second goal of the game and cut the lead to four with just over 13 minutes to go. The Tribe had several offensive looks on the next series, but Villanova cleared the ball and Puckette fired a bullet into the upper right corner to push the advantage back up to five with 10:41 remaining. On the following Wildcat possession, Comerford found Puckette once again and the junior converted her second goal in a row to extend the lead to six.
The Tribe kept the energy up, with Martire netting her third goal of the afternoon on a free position shot on the ensuing possession to keep the College within five. The teams traded possessions until a low Martire shot skipped into the net to make it 15-11 and give her four goals on the day.
The College regained possession and a foul forced another free position shot. Martire advanced near the goal and beat the goalkeeper to pull the Tribe within three on her fifth score of the game. Villanova secured possession on the ensuing face-off and Rosati sliced through the defense to score her second goal of the game in the upper right corner. The score remained 16-12 through the final whistle.
The Tribe will return to action Feb. 15 when it takes on George Mason at 2 p.m. in Fairfax, Virginia.