Villapiano's Leadership Increasingly Crucial For The Minutewomen
March 26, 2008
Massachusetts women's lacrosse senior captain Jeannette Villapiano has a knack for being all over the field. She can play various positions as needed.
Villapiano is well-equipped to be on a team as dynamic as the Minutewomen, headed by UMass coach Alexis Venechanos.
Villapiano is an unheralded leader on the team and her up-tempo style of play gives an already athletic UMass team an advantage against teams with pure scorers, such as New Hampshire, a team that has seven players with at least 10 goals.
The 5-foot-9 midfielder/defender by trade is another hybrid player whom Venechanos plays often because of her versatility and high intensity. She runs the midfield for the second season in a row and is already breaking personal records with each passing game.
"We've been rotating them in midfield and defense," Venechanos said of her midfielders. "We feel like they're good leaders on defense and we need them on attack as well. All three of them bring something that our team needs and we want to keep them on the field as much as we can."
Villapiano is a defensive-minded player and has an ability to run the midfield and also create turnovers in the back of the midfield toward her team's goal. As a junior, she had a down year, playing in 17 games while making two starts. Her major statistics for the year were two goals, five draws controlled, five caused turnovers and four ground balls.
Villapiano's best season came as a sophomore, when she was named to the Atlantic 10 Conference All-Tournament Team. In 16 games - starting 15 of them - she had 22 goals and five assists for 27 points, which ranked fourth on the team in total points.
One of the best games of her career came against Saint Joseph's, in which she scored two pivotal goals; the first tied the game at five and her next was the beginning of a 5-0 run that sealed the win for the Minutewomen.
She also excelled in statistics that don't count toward one's point total. Villapiano had 33 ground balls, 23 draws won and caused six turnovers.
"As of right now we can't take her off of the field," Venechanos said of Villapiano's value to the team this season. "She's been doing everything but playing goalie."
Villapiano is on pace to have her best season as a Minutewoman. She leads the team in draw controls, with a career-high 17. Also, with a caused turnover in her latest game, against the No. 16 New Hampshire Wildcats, Villapiano tied a career-high for caused turnovers in a season.
Her physical play has also earned her a team-high 14 yellow cards. However, on the other side of the foul, she is one of only four Minutewomen with multiple free-position goals.
"Wherever coach needs me, wherever the team needs me, that's where I am," Villapiano said of her duties at multiple positions. "I'll do anything to get that big [win]."
Villapiano does have a preference, however. She likes to play in the midfield because she likes bringing the ball up the field in offensive transition, but she also likes to slide back into defensive sets and help protect the cage.
With freshman goaltender Colleen Speth inheriting the starting spot by way of trial-by-fire, Villapiano's hard-nosed defense is needed to give her goalie the comfort that she needs to ease into her role as the starting netminder.
The other aspect of Villapiano's game that makes her a multi-dimensional threat is her speed.
"I'm a defensive [midfielder] so I play back," Villapiano said. "Coach utilizes my speed a lot. I'm more of a transition player, that's my strongest point."
Villapiano will use her knowledge of the positions to aid her team as the Minutewomen enter conference play.
Mike Gillmeister can be reached at email@example.com.
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