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by Paul Regan

Villanova returned home this weekend to avenge last weekend’s losses to St. John’s and Seton Hall. The ’Cats did not need any added motivation as they were defeated by St. John’s in four sets and lost to Seton Hall in a five-set thriller.

“After you lose and then play the same teams right away, there is some focus that’s just generated because you want to win,”  Villanova Head Coach Josh Steinbach told Villanova.com.

Villanova came into the weekend with an impressive 6-1 record at home and looked to continue their home court dominance. The Wildcats (11-9, 3-4 Big East) did just that on Friday night by defeating the Red Storm (13-9, 2-4 Big East) 3-1.

The Wildcats, however, were unable to do the same against Seton Hall (10-10, 3-4 Big East) the following night, losing 3-1.

On Friday night in Jake Nevin Field House, ’Nova took down the Red Storm in dominating fashion, winning the match in four sets (25-17, 25-22, 25-27, 25-22).

With the first set tied at 8-8, Villanova won 17 of the last 26 points to take a 1-0 lead in the match.

The second set was a little closer with seven ties and eight lead changes. Down 18-21, the ’Cats took seven of the last eight points to win the set and take a commanding 2-0 lead.

During the second set, senior libero Mariah Henley recorded her 100th career service ace.

It looked like Villanova was going to make quick work of the Red Storm as Villanova dominated for much of the third set. The Wildcats held leads of 14-4 and 19-9 during the set.

But St. John’s battled back to win the set, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the process. With the score 25-25, a service ace by sophomore defensive specialist Shawna Lee Santos and a block by sophomore setter Deniz Mutlugil gave the Red Storm a 27-25 set victory.

Villanova broke an 8-8 tie in the fourth set and never looked back, going on to win the set 25-22 on a match point kill by sophomore outside hitter Lauren Carpenter.

St. John’s sophomore outside hitter Karin Palgutova recorded 22 kills in the match and Santos had a match-high 18 digs.

For Villanova, sophomore middle blocker Gabby Pethokoukis recorded a match-high .440 attack pct. and sophomore setter Emma Pettit had 50 assists.

But the most impressive performance came from Carpenter, who notched a career-high 24 kills on 53 attacks for an attack pct. of .396. Carpenter brought her best in a big win for ’Nova and credited her teammates for her stellar play.

“I knew I needed to do my job and the defense made it easy by getting digs that were in system, and Emma [Pettit] played phenomenally,” Carpenter said.

Following their  3-1 victory over St. John’s, the Wildcats dropped the second match of their Big East weekend when they were defeated by Seton Hall, 3-1 (25-23, 16-25, 26-24, 25-21), on Saturday night in Jake Nevin Field House.

The first set was full of back and forth action as there were 12 ties and six lead changes. Despite a combined nine kills from Carpenter and Pethokoukis, the Pirates took set one, 25-23.

With the score tied at 23, junior setter Shelbey Manthorpe’s kill put Seton Hall in set point and a kill by junior outside hitter Simona Sekulova won the set for the Pirates.

Villanova responded well, though, taking the second set with a convincing 25-16 score. The ’Cats, who led during the entire set, recorded 10 blocks and a .172 attack percentage as a team to tie the match at the intermission.

Set three involved back and forth action once again, with Seton Hall ultimately winning the set 26-24. After a red card by the Pirates knotted up the score at 24-24, Seton Hall won back to back points to take the set, 26-24, and a 2-1 lead in the match.

Villanova dropped the fourth set, 25-21. Leading 16-11, Seton Hall scored four of the next five points to take a 20-12 lead. Villanova answered right back by scoring the next four points to cut the Pirate’s lead to 20-16.

But ’Nova could not finish off its rally, as Seton Hall would go on to win the set and the match.

After Carpenter’s banner night against St. John’s, the sophomore notched a match-high 18 kills against the Pirates. Pethokoukis added 11 kills of her own and Henley had 25 digs for the ’Cats.

For Seton Hall, Manthorpe tallied a match-high 47 assists to go with her 16 digs. Additionally, senior libero Alyssa Warren recorded 23 digs.

Although they didn’t get the result they wanted in Saturday’s match, the Wildcats were pleased with the effort over the weekend.

“We wanted to win both games in order to maintain our chances of making it to the Big East Tournament, so we all knew we needed to come out and play with nothing to lose,” Carpenter said.

The Wildcats have a chance to improve their Big East record in two road matches this weekend. They will play against Marquette Saturday and DePaul Sunday.

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