NEW HAVEN, Conn. - In a decisive fourth set Villanova (4-3) could not hang on to an early lead and wound up being defeated, 3-1, by Yale (3-1) at Lee Amphitheater in the Yale Invitational on Friday night. After the Wildcats rallied for a 25-23 win in the opening set the Bulldogs won the next three sets by scores of 25-15, 26-24 and 26-24 to close out the match.
Freshman outside hitter Lauren Carpenter (Lakewood, Colo.) and senior middle blocker CeCe Twitty (Scottsdale, Ariz.) led the Wildcats with 10 kills apiece on a night where Villanova spread out its offense to a number of different options. Freshman middle blocker Gabby Pethokoukis (Western Springs, Ill.) had nine kills and four block assists while junior outside hitter Carly Edwards (Okemos, Mich.) chipped in seven kills.
Villanova made big rallies in the first and third sets and finished strong in the opening frame to take a 1-0 lead in the match. In a frenetic finish to the third set the Wildcats overcame a big deficit to take the lead late but eventually Yale won the final two points of the set to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
It may have seemed that the Bulldogs had momentum on their side at that point but Villanova raced out to a 6-0 lead in the fourth set and later stretched the margin to a 12-5 advantage. The tables turned however, and Yale made a rally of its own to win the match in four and avoid going to a fifth set.
Junior libero Mariah Henley (Hockessin, Del.) had 28 digs to lead the Wildcats defense and Carpenter added 16 digs to tally a double-double. Freshman setter Emma Pettit (Ft. Collins, Colo.) and sophomore setter Allie DiBernardo (Coto do Caza, Calif.) shared the setting duties, with Pettit having 21 assists and DiBernardo distributing 15 more.
In the opening set the host Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-2 lead and seemed to be in control after three straight points left the margin at 18-12 and forced a Wildcats timeout. Villanova chipped away at the deficit and eventually roared back from trailing 21-18 to score six unanswered points and go ahead by a 24-21 count.
The run of six straight points started with kills by Pethokoukis and senior outside hitter Krista Andersen (Lakeland, Fla.), then continued with an ace by Pettit and a kill by Edwards which gave the Wildcats a 22-21 lead. Two straight attack errors by Yale put Villanova on the cusp of taking the set, which eventually ended with a 25-23 score.
Pettit had nine of her 21 assists in the opening set, during which Carpenter (five kills) and Pethokoukis (three) combined for eight kills without a single error on 18 attack attempts. As a team the Wildcats hit .286 and committed only two errors in the set.
In the second set the Bulldogs broke away from an 8-8 tie and cruised the rest of the way to at 10-point margin of victory in the set. Yale hit .357 in the set and the Wildcats had more errors (eight) than kills (seven) before the match was knotted at one set apiece.
The outcome of the match was up for grabs in the third set and the Bulldogs led 17-11 when Villanova launched an 11-4 spurt to go ahead 22-21. During that run Twitty and Edwards had two kills apiece, with the second kill by Edwards tying the score at 21-all.
Edwards had another kill to give the Wildcats a 23-22 lead but consecutive errors on a serve and an attack gave Yale a set point at 24-23. Villanova withstood that point on a kill by Twitty but the Bulldogs responded with two straight kills of their own to take the set, 26-24.
In the fourth set the Wildcats had four blocks on the first 10 points played and eventually had a commanding 10-2 lead. Three points later Villanova was ahead 12-3 but the Bulldogs drew even at 17-17 with a 14-5 run. Later in the set a kill by Twitty tied the score at 24-24 as the Wildcats survived the first match point but Yale again scored two straight points to win the set 26-24 and the match by the 3-1 count.
Villanova plays twice on Saturday at the Yale Invitational, with matches against Northwestern at Noon and Brown at 5 p.m.
NOTES: Henley had at least 23 digs or more for the fourth time in her last five matches ... Carpenter tallied her third double-double in seven matches on the year ... Both teams showcased a balanced offense; The Wildcats had four hitters with at least seven kills and the Bulldogs had five hitters reach double figures in kills ... Villanova had previously been 3-0 in head-to-head meetings against Yale.