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by Angie Matarozzi

The volleyball team fell to the Butler Bulldogs on Saturday night at Jake Nevin Field House by a score of 3-0 (25-7, 25-18, 25-17).

With Saturday’s loss, Villanova fell below .500 for the first time since its tournament in College Park, Md., in early September. Butler (20-6 overall and 7-4 within conference) was led by middle blockers, Maggie Harbison and Erica Stahl as well as outside hitter Belle Obert. The trio recorded 10, eight and nine kills, respectively.

Butler dominated early on in set one, beginning the match with a decisive 5-0 lead over the Wildcats. Unable to find their offensive momentum, the Wildcats fell 27-5 after a kill from Harbison ended the set.

In the second set, Villanova fell behind again early on, 5-1. The Bulldogs were able to expand their control of the game and relied on Harbison to lead the way, who recorded seven kills (.636) in the second set.

For the Wildcats, freshman outside hitter Claire Crutchfield had a stellar set and led the team with five kills on 13 attacks. However, Crutchfield’s performance was not enough to halt the Bulldogs momentum, and the Wildcats lost the set 25-18.

Villanova was unable to force a fourth set, and fell to the Bulldogs by a score of 25-17 in the third and final set of the game.

A 6-0 run by Butler cemented the victory, and kept Villanova from finding a consistent offensive rhythm.

Senior libero and team captain for the Wildcats, Mariah Henley, recorded a match-high of 16 digs.

Henley was honored on Saturday night with the ball from her 1,500th career dig that she recently achieved.

Henley was named Villanova’s Student-Athlete of the Month in Sept. and has provided excellent leadership for the Wildcats all season long and has had an outstanding four-year career as a Wildcat.

In the third set, Crutchfield was again electric, and provided a team-high of eight kills. Sophomore outside hitter Colleen Hickey contributed four kills of her own.

As a team, the Bulldogs hit .376 in comparison to .037 from the Wildcats. Butler also edged out Villanova in team blocks by a ratio of 8-2.

Butler will look to record its third consecutive victory against Georgetown this week.

After falling to the Bulldogs on their own home court, the Wildcats faced the Xavier Musketeers for their final home contest of the season on Sunday afternoon.

Seniors Julie Joyce, Carly Edwards and Henley were honored on their Senior Night.

The Musketeers swept Villanova 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-20) at Jake Nevin Field House. The win helped Xavier secure their spot in the Big East tournament, which will begin Nov. 29 in Omaha, Neb.

The Xavier Musketeers improved to 18-9 overall and 9-3 within conference play. Villanova dropped to 12-14 overall and a 4-9 record within the Big East.

Xavier is feeling confident from its victory over Villanova as it heads into the final stretch of the regular season.

“Our hitters brought an aggressive mindset into the match and our defense once again was sound,” Xavier Head Coach Mike Johnson commented. “I’m really proud of the growth we have shown week to week. I feel like we are just starting to hit our stride.”

Of late, Villanova has struggled with opening their sets strong and have fallen behind quickly very early on. In the opening set on Sunday, Xavier got off to a 10-3 lead.

The Wildcats struggled to rebound from the early lead and were edged out, 25-14.  Sophomore outside hitter for Xavier, Makayla Agin, had four kills on five attacks in the set.

Frustrated with the result of the first set, ’Nova came out with increased fervor in the second set, at one point leading Xavier 15-10. After numerous lead changes and back and forth rallies, the Musketeers capitalized on a 10-1 run to assert dominance in the set. Xavier was able to cruise to a 27-17 win.

Villanova and Xavier were tied at 17 in set three, yet the Muskateer’s efficiency (they finished the set with a .483 attack percentage) proved to be the deciding factor. Agin and junior middle blocker Alex Blair, worked together to score Xavier’s final few points. The Musketeer’s finished the match 25-20.

Villanova sophomore outside hitter Lauren Carpenter had a team-high of 10 kills against Xavier. Gabby Pethokoukis, a sophomore middle blocker, contributed seven kills of her own. Senior captain Mariah Henley recorded 11 digs in the match, which elevated her to number seven on the all-time Villanova season digs record list.

Xavier hit .374  in comparison to Villanova’s .108. The Wildcats will have a chance to redeem themselves against both Bulter and Xavier this upcoming week.

The Wildcats will face Xavier again Nov. 15 in Cincinatti, Ohio. Villanova will then play the Butler Bulldogs the very next day in Indianapolis, Ind. The road trip will hopefully even Villanova’s record at .500.

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