Rally Cats: Villanova Comes Back From the Brink to Top New Hampshire, 3-2
Aug. 26, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Down two sets to none and facing the potential last point of the match Villanova (2-1) made a remarkable comeback and defeated New Hampshire (1-2) by a 3-2 final on Saturday night to claim second place overall at this weekend's Villanova Classic in Jake Nevin Field House. The match lasted just over two-and-a-half hours and the Wildcats finally came away with a well-deserved victory by scores of 20-25, 24-26, 28-26, 25-14 and 15-13.
"It takes a lot to come back and win from such a steep deficit; that's very impressive," Villanova head coach Josh Steinbach said. "The thing about our young kids is I felt like they still had confidence even when we were down. It was nice to come back and pull out the match because when we go on the road and then get into conference play there will be tough matches where we are down and have to come back. From that standpoint it was really important for us to come back and win this one."
The first three sets of the match featured balanced play and back-and-forth scoring but New Hampshire went ahead by a 2-0 margin after winning four consecutive points to close out the second set. In the third set the visiting Wildcats held a 24-23 lead but the host Wildcats withstood the match point and eventually forced the match to continue.
Once the contest went past three sets Villanova took over and was in steady control along the way to first tying and then winning the match in thrilling and spectacular fashion. Earlier in the day the Wildcats swept Robert Morris (25-17, 27-25, 25-23) and the two victories give Villanova a second place finish in their home tournament.
Maryland was the tournament's team champion and was the only squad to go undefeated for the weekend. New Hampshire lost two of its three matches to finish in third place and Robert Morris went 0-3 to finish fourth. A tournament Most Valuable Player and All-Tournament Team were announced following the Villanova-New Hampshire finale.
Junior outside hitter Carly Edwards (Okemos, Mich.) and freshman outside hitter Lauren Carpenter (Lakewood, Colo.) each represented the Wildcats on the all-tournament team. Adreené Elliott of Maryland was the tournament MVP and the Terrapins also placed Kamrin Gold and Sarah Harper on the All-Tournament Team. They were joined by Destiny Tolliver of New Hampshire and Lindsey Monger of Robert Morris.
The defensive effort for Villanova in the win over New Hampshire was a strong one and junior libero Mariah Henley (Hockessin, Del.) established a new career high with 30 digs in the match. She also tied a career high with four service aces and added five assists to complete her stat line for the night.
Sophomore setter Allie DiBernardo (Coto de Caza, Calif.) and Carpenter both had double-doubles. DiBernardo entered the match in the second set and finished with 32 assists and 19 digs while Carpenter totaled 16 kills and 13 digs while leading all players with 66 attack attempts. Edwards reached double figures in kills for the first time in her career and finished 14 kills.
The individual sets were so close that by the time the match was over the teams had combined for 37 tie scores and 18 lead changes. In the second and third sets alone there were 21 ties and nine lead changes as the mascot namesakes battled it out to see who could gain control of the match.
Villanova called a timeout in the third set when it was trailing 12-8 and all the momentum appeared to be on the New Hampshire side. Following the timeout freshman middle blocker Gabby Pethokoukis (Western Springs, Ill.) and Edwards combined for three straight kills before an attack error on the other side tied the score at 12-12.
That resulted in a New Hampshire timeout but Villanova stayed on the offensive and extended its run into a 9-1 spurt which forged a 17-13 lead. Villanova later had a 21-16 lead but New Hampshire pulled to within 22-21 to set up a nail-biting finish to the set.
Villanova went ahead 23-21 on a kill by Edwards but then committed back-to-back errors which brought the teams even at 23-all. A kill by Victoria Forrest put New Hampshire in front 24-23, the first time in the set that the Wildcats trailed since New Hampshire had a 12-11 lead.
Edwards put a ball down to retie the score and an ace from Henley led to a set point for Villanova, which ended up winning on its third set point when senior outside hitter Krista Andersen (Lakeland, Fla.) sent down a kill. Andersen was a spark in both matches for Villanova on Saturday night and finished the win over New Hampshire with 12 kills.
"Krista is a very confident player," Steinbach said. "She makes some mistakes but she doesn't worry about those kinds of things. She just comes back and takes a big swing on the next ball or hits the next serve just as hard. We love that about her and it is one of the qualities that make her a special player."
In the fourth set Villanova pulled away from a 4-4 tie with a 10-3 burst for a 14-7 advantage and stayed in front by at least four points during the remainder of the set. New Hampshire led 7-6 in the fifth set but three straight kills from Andersen and DiBernardo gave Villanova the lead for good at 9-7.
New Hampshire libero Jessie Schnepp had 38 digs in the match and Tolliver hit .405 while contributing 21 kills, nine digs and three block assists. Morgan Thatcher (13) and Delaney Dameron (11) also reached double figures in kills and Taylor Dunklau dished out 52 assists.
This weekend marked the first time since 2000 that Villanova opened the season at home. The squad remains local next weekend and plays in the Big Five Volleyball tournament at the historic Palestra against local foes La Salle, Temple and Penn. First up is a match versus La Salle on Friday at 4 p.m.