PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – Villanova’s Higgins Soccer Complex will always hold a special place in Rudy Meredith’s heart. It was there, Meredith guided the Bulldogs to their first NCAA Tournament victory back in 2002. His return visit Friday turned out ok as well.
Sofia Griff scored the only goal of the game with less than 12 minutes remaining in the second half as Yale blanked the Wildcats 1-0.
“It definitely hit me when we got here,” Meredith said of the memories of the thrilling NCAA Tournament game that was decided by penalty kicks.
Ironically, Meredith’s wife, Eva, was the head coach of the University of Hartford at the time, and the Hawks also played their NCAA Tournament game at Villanova that year, falling to Nebraska.
“I was actually rooting against them because I didn’t want to play my wife,” Meredith joked.
The Bulldogs lost to Nebraska in the second round.
Friday’s game had plenty of drama as well. The Wildcats were awarded a penalty kick late in the first half, but Reanna Marino’s shot went wide.
At halftime, Meredith made an adjustment that played a key role in the outcome.
The Wildcats were playing three backs, a formation the Bulldogs had not seen this season. Meredith pushed two forwards up, one of which was Griff.
It paid off on a corner kick. Michelle Alozie got her head on the kick, and Griff was able to deflect it past Villanova goalkeeper Emma Meyer.
The Wildcats, who have not scored in six games, applied some late pressure, but the Bulldogs held on.
“It was a very hard-fought game,” Meredith said. “They were desperate for a goal.”
Goalkeeper Rachel Ames made four saves to earn the victory.
After yielding nine goals in its first two games, Yale has posted three straight shutouts.
“We were giving up goals like Christmas presents,” Meredith said. “We’ve been communicating better and not leaving as many gaps.”
The Bulldogs will look to extend their winning streak to four when they play at Maryland on Sunday. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.