Club Women's Soccer Team Competes at National Championships

The Women’s Club Soccer team at nationals.

From Nov. 18-20, Villanova’s women’s club soccer team had the opportunity to compete in the NIRSA National Championships in Foley, Alabama, playing against the top club soccer teams in the country. While the tournament got off to a rocky start, the players were able to come out with a 2-3 record at the tournament and made the most of the experience, representing Villanova well.

Before getting the opportunity to travel to Foley, the team first had to win the regional tournament, which it did on the weekend of Oct. 23. After losing its first game to Harvard, 1-0, the team came back and was able to beat Binghamton, 5-2, UPenn, 1-0, and Maryland, 1-0 in the championship to clinch its bid to compete in Nationals in Foley.

The team was faced with adversity before the competition even began. Before the tournament, starting goalie Izzy Jacowleff dislocated her shoulder. While she was otherwise okay, she was not able to play. Hannah Phillips, the other goalie on the team, took the challenge of stepping up and performing for her teammates. 

“Being able to compete at nationals this year was truly the best capstone to an already amazing season,” Phillips said. “While competition did not go exactly the way we hoped, I’m proud of the fact that we were able to hold our own against such talented and technical teams.” 

When arriving at the tournament, the Wildcats realized that they were the only team there that did not have a coach. In fact, the team captains had to purchase balls from Five Below to even practice before games.

The first day of the tournament was a wake-up call for the team. Having only lost one game throughout its entire regular season and postseason run thus far, the team was not used to losing. On day one, they played the club teams of UNC and UCLA and lost to UCLA, 6-1, and to UNC, 7-1. While the Wildcats were upset with the results, they knew they were the underdogs coming into the tournament and vowed to take advantage of the rest of the games that they would be able to play in the loser’s bracket. Rather than dwelling on the games, the team wanted to enjoy themselves.

The night after its first games, the team got together and created a TikTok as a team bonding exercise. Before they knew it, the TikTok went viral, getting more than 470,000 views and 64,000 likes. All of the other teams and even some of the workers at the tournament saw the video, and Villanova ended up being known as “the TikTok team” for the rest of the tournament. This helped the team create conversations with multiple other teams at the tournament, creating a friendly atmosphere. On top of this, one of the nights the team went bowling, and it invited other teams to join for an enjoyable night.

In the loser’s bracket, the team went 2-1. After beating the University of Arkansas, 3-2, with the game-winning goal by senior captain Lindsey Scalley, Villanova punched its way to the consolation bracket championships by beating Purdue in a 1-0 overtime thriller, as sophomore Sydney Sears scored less than five minutes into extra time. While it wasn’t necessarily the championship it had originally wanted to play in, the team was super excited that it had made it that far.

Although the team ended up losing the consolation championship, 1-0, to the University of Washington, the Wildcats were proud of all they had accomplished.

“Winning regionals and competing in the championship division of nationals without a coach and with a really young team was an amazing experience and accomplishment,” senior team captain Nicole Garcia said. “I am so proud of all the hard work we put in this season and am excited to watch the underclassmen lead future teams to the national championship.”

Senior team captains Garcia and Scally, who each were an integral part of the team, along with the rest of the seniors, are sad to leave but are proud of how they were able to end their Villanova soccer careers. 

While the team may not have won the competition, they still were able to leave Alabama with a prize. Villanova was given the tournament’s Sportsmanship Award, voted on by all of the players that participated in the tournament. The award is given to one team that makes sportsmanship an integral part of their competition, and as the team made conversation with all of its competitors both on and off the field, the award was definitely earned.

Looking toward the future, the players are hoping that this experience will be repeated and that they’ll be able to return to another national tournament in the future. They also hope that any girl looking to compete at a high level of soccer that is not on the D1 team will recognize the hard work and dedication they can put in by being a part of a winning team.