Despite not making it to the Women’s NCAA Tournament, Villanova earned a bid to the WNIT. This past Friday, the Wildcats squared off with the Old Dominion Big Blue in their first-round matchup at the Finneran Pavilion and won an overtime thriller, 86-81. On Sunday, ‘Nova was not so fortunate and suffered a second round defeat on the road at the hands of the West Virginia Mountaineers.
In the game against ODU, the Big Blue jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead before the ‘Cats went on a 10-3 run for all of their points in the period with triples from Jannah Tucker and Emily Esposito along with four points from Mary Gedaka. Old Dominion scored the last four points on the period in order to gain a slim 11-10 lead going into the second period.
In the ensuing quarter, Villanova kept the game within striking distance by getting their spark from Esposito. With senior captains Adrianna Hahn and Jannah Tucker struggling and junior Kelly Jekot not in the lineup because of a knee injury, head coach Harry Perretta looked to his redshirt freshman to carry the scoring load. Esposito showed flashes of what made her a Big East All Rookie team selection by scoring 11 of the ‘Cats 16 in the second by hitting shots from deep and pull up jumpers. Despite the heroics of Esposito, ODU went into the half with a 29-26 lead.
After Old Dominion took a 33-26 lead after halftime, Villanova went on a 9-0 run with two triples from Tucker and another long ball from Esposito for a 35-33 lead. The Big Blue went on runs of their own in the third and kept the third period competitive until a three from Raven James gave ‘Nova a 50-48 lead.
With a little under four minutes to play in regulation, ODU held a 63-56 lead. Behind the resilience of Esposito, Gedaka and Brianna Herlihy, Villanova found itself only down by one with 19 seconds to play. After a couple of Old Dominion free throws to extend the lead to three, ‘Nova came down and found Herlihy for a double pump triple at the buzzer to force the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Villanova went on a 9-0 run and never looked back from there. In a game that came down to hitting free throws in crunch time, ‘Nova hit enough shots from the stripe to maintain their lead and escape with an 86-81 victory.
Not even 48 hours later, ‘Nova took a road trip down to Morgantown, VA to play the Mountaineers. The game did not go as well as Friday, as Villanova found themselves trailing, 31-19, at halftime and fell, 64-57.
In the third period, Villanova was in striking distance after a long ball from Hahn to trim the deficit to 39-38. That would be the last points that the ‘Cats scored in the period as West Virginia went on a 9-0 run over the last four minutes of the period for a 48-38 lead.
In the fourth, the Wildcats were never able to gain ground on their deficit as whenever and get a bucket whenever they needed one. In the end, West Virginia held down the fort and advanced to the next round with a 7 point win.
Overall, Villanova finished their 2018-19 campaign with a 19-13 record, but there is hope for the future. Despite losing seniors Hahn, Tucker, and Grace Stant, ‘Nova’s top two scorers, Jekot and Gedaka, will return for their senior seasons next year. Villanova will also be bringing back role players in Brianna and Bridget Herlihy, James and rising star Esposito.