by Ryan Rogers
On Saturday, Oct. 26, the Villanova Wildcats took on the number 16th ranked Marquette Golden Eagles in the Al McGuire center in Milwaukee, Wis. Despite what would become a tightly contested and hard fought battle between both squads, Marquette won in three sets, concluding their regular season sweep over the ’Cats.
The first set involved four tie scores but Marquette jumped to a 20-15 lead. However the Wildcats rallied all the way back to 24-23. They lost the set (25-23) during the next point however due to a splendid kill by upcoming Marquette freshman, Autumn Bailey.
The next set was far more dramatic than the first. Both teams traded points during five lead changes and a match-high seven tie scores. The Golden Eagles won the second set 25-21, highlighted by a 6-0 run combined with few errors and solid ball striking.
Villanova had a set winning opportunity as they sat on a 24-23 lead in the third. Following a strategic timeout, Marquette sophomore Erin Lehman answered harshly with a set-tying kill. That momentum pushed the Golden Eagles to capture the third set 27-25.
Following the match, Villanova Head Coach Josh Steinbach, commented on the team’s performance with practical optimism. “The team played well but just couldn’t get over the hump in any one game,” he said. “Against what might be the best team in the league we were right there, but we have to find the little extra to extend that match into four or five sets so that we have a shot.”
With this loss, Villanova drops to 11-10 overall and 3-5 in the Big East. Having dropped three of their last seven road matches, it is apparent that the Wildcats are going through a mediocre stretch. However, all is not lost. Statistically, Villanova players have been performing consistently well.
Sophomore Lauren Carpenter recorded double-digit kills for the 15th consecutive game, a true demonstration of consistency. Sophomore Gabby Pethokoukis and freshman Claire Crutchfield recorded 15 kills.
Senior libero Mariah Henley continued her defensive prowess with 20 digs over the match, while sophomore setter Emma Pettit had a match-high 36 assists, eight digs, two kills and two blocks. Steinbach appreciated the individual efforts noting, “Mariah, Gabby and Lauren were all outstanding.”
The next day, the team was in Chicago playing against DePaul, looking to record a regular-season sweep.
In the first set, Pettit put on an assist clinic, racking up at least 11 assists in each set and 38 in total. Her popular target was Carpenter, who accumulated 13 kills in the match. Together this lethal setup and execution won the Wildcats the first two sets with ease 25-19, then 25-16.
Villanova’s only opposition came from DePaul’s 5’11” sophomore Colleen Smith and senior Natalie Rizzo. Smith patiently kept her squad in the game with 21 assists and a few digs to valiantly prevent a sweep. Rizzo played holistically providing six kills, one dig, four aces and one assist.
The third set progressed as Pettit led accurate set ups to a variety of strikers like sophomore Hickey and sophomore Pethokoukis.
In addition, junior defensive specialist Ally Moskitis provided three serving aces and four recovery digs to add to the ’Cats’ point total.
DePaul fell to 15-6 (1-6 in-conference) while Villanova regained some hope of making a playoff run in the upcoming weeks.
After playing Georgetown away on Nov. 2, the Wildcats return to play their final home matches. Their final upcoming home games will be against Creighton on Nov. 8, Butler on Nov. 9 and Xavier on Nov. 11.