by Pat Ralph
Participating in the University of Maryland Invitational at the Comcast Pavilion in College Park this past weekend, the Villanova women’s volleyball team got off to a great start on Friday evening with a victory over George Mason.
The Wildcats took the first two sets by scores of 25-18 and 25-16, but lost the following two by scores of 27-25 and 25-19. In the fifth and deciding set, the Wildcats came out on top 15-7 to capture the win.
Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Carpenter and freshman middle blocker Michaela Berendt led the way for the Wildcats. Carpenter had a game-high 15 kills and five digs, while Berendt finished with 14 kills, four digs, two blocks and, most impressively, only two errors.
Sophomore outside hitter Colleen Hickey made big contributions to the match off the bench, finishing with nine kills and three digs.
Four players were defensive stars for the Wildcats and contributed to accumulate double-digit digs, including sophomore setter Emma Pettit, junior defender Ally Moskitis, senior defender Mariah Henley and junior setter Allie DiBernardo.
“I thought we played ok tonight,” Villanova Head Coach Josh Steinbach said to Villanova.com. “We had chances to close them out in three sets and didn’t, which was disappointing.”
“Michaela had another outstanding offensive match and Colleen played well off the bench,” Steinbach added. “We will have to be better tomorrow against New Hampshire and Maryland.”
The Wildcats opened up play on Saturday at the Invitational with a victory against New Hampshire in straight sets by scores of 25-19, 25-20 and 25-19.
With the first set tied at 14, the Wildcats went on the attack and finished on an 11-5 run to close out the game, 25-19.
Set two went back-and-forth throughout the game until a couple of New Hampshire errors helped Villanova pull away with a 25-20 victory.
Up two games to none, the ’Cats would impose their will in the last set to close the match with a 25-19 third set victory.
Carpenter and freshman outside hitter Claire Crutchfield led the way for the Wildcats with 11 kills each.
Berendt added another nine kills to her total and sophomore middle blocker Brittany Rembert added six kills. Pettit accumulated a team-high 34 assists in the match to go along with her seven digs.
As for Henley, she finished with a game-high 18 digs and three service aces.
“It was a well-played match for us today,” Steinbach said to Villanova.com. “Our middles really set the tone and opened things up for our other players to score.”
Despite winning their first two matches of the Invitational, the Wildcats lost their final match of the weekend against the host Maryland Terripans in straight sets by scores of 25-21, 25-15 and 25-23.
The match went back-and-forth in set one. With Villanova up 14-11, Maryland went on a solid, 14-7 run to close out the game, winning 25-21. The Terrapins used the momentum gained late in the first set to put together an impressive, 25-15, second set win.
The Wildcats used the intermission to regroup and came out composed in the second half despite being down 2-0.
The Wildcats traded points throughout the third set, but eventually squandered a late lead to drop the set 25-23.
Carpenter, who was named to the Maryland Invitational all-tournament team, finished with 11 kills, while Crutchfield posted her second straight double-digit kill game with 10.
Hickey, who played a huge role in the Wildcats victory on Friday evening, came off the bench and notched eight kills.
Carpenter was not the only Wildcat on the all-tournament team, as freshman Michaela Berendt was also named to the Maryland Invitational team. She finished the tournament with 28 kills.
Despite the disappointing end to the tournament, the Wildcats were pleased with how they played this weekend.
“The team played really hard tonight and we competed well,” Steinbach said to Villanova.com. “I think we are on the right track as a team that is improving every time out. Maryland was really good tonight and just outplayed us at key moments.”
The Wildcats currently stand at 5-5 on the young season. After winning Tuesday’s match against Delaware, the Wildcats will host the Villanova Classic this weekend at the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse.
Villanova will go up against the likes of Sacred Heart, Norfolk State and UPenn during the tournament.