Sep 6, 2013
LINCOLN, Neb. - Villanova (1-3) faced one of the most storied collegiate volleyball programs and was defeated, 3-1, by No. 13 Nebraska (3-1) on a memorable night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Friday evening. The set scores were 14-25, 13-25, 25-20 and 20-25.
The playing surface was dedicated as Terry Pettit Court prior to the start of the match, in honor of the former Cornhuskers coach and father of Wildcats sophomore setter Emma Pettit (Fort Collins, Colo.). Emma took the court along with the rest of her family for a pre-game ceremony and then received a loud ovation from the sellout crowd of 8,321 fans when the Villanova starters were introduced.
"It was a cool thing for Emma and her dad," Wildcats head coach Josh Steinbach said of the court dedication. "It was obviously important for their family and it was a good experience for me as a coach to be here and to see another coach honored who has such an appreciation for volleyball and its history. It was also terrific to play in this type of volleyball environment. We don't get this opportunity very often."
While addressing the fans before the match Terry Pettit noted the excitement of having Villanova be tonight's opponent.
"I want to thank [Nebraska head coach] John Cook and Josh Steinbach for the creative scheduling which allowed Emma and her Wildcats teammates to be here for this occasion," Pettit said.
The freshmen duo of outside hitter Claire Crutchfield (Falls Church, Va.) and middle blocker Michaela Berendt (Olympia, Wash.) led Villanova with nine kills apiece in the match. Berendt hit .292 for the night and led both teams with five block assists, while senior outside hitter Carly Edwards (Okemos, Mich.) chipped in with seven kills and four block assists. Edwards hit .389 while committing no hitting errors. Pettit had an excellent match in front of many friends and family members, dishing out 31 assists and adding six digs, three kills and three block assists.
"We are getting better with each match," Steinbach said. "We still have things to work on and one of them is that we have to start matches better and end sets better. At the same time we have shown that we are a very capable team. The outside hitters are playing well. Michaela scored well and Carly had a great match tonight. When we put it all together we are a team that is very capable of beating anybody."
Early in the first set the Cornhuskers jumped out to a 9-3 lead and forced an early Villanova timeout. After the break, two straight Nebraska errors made the score 9-5 and the Wildcats held their own for what ended up being the majority of the opening set. Villanova stayed within four to six points of their hosts until the Cornhuskers went up 20-13 late in the set. That came during a 7-1 run to close the frame. Berendt, Crutchfield and sophomore middle blocker Brittany Rembert (Orlando, Fla.) had two kills apiece and the Wildcats committed just three hitting errors in the opening set, compared with seven Nebraska errors.
A kill by Edwards started the second set and gave Villanova a 1-0 lead before the Cornhuskers ran off five straight points on four kills and a block to take control. Later in the frame the score was 15-10 in favor of Nebraska before a 10-2 run closed the set and accounted for the final 25-13 margin.
"We started off the match a little slowly," Steinbach said. "It was a different environment than we are used to and it took us a while to find out footing. We competed really hard at the end of the match. I wish we would have started out in the beginning the way we played in the end but overall we really came to play and will be a better team for this match."
In the third set the Wildcats overcame an early deficit and a late Cornhuskers rally to extend the match. A kill by Pettit secured the final point after Nebraska scored five straight to make a one-time 24-15 lead for Villanova suddenly feel a little tenuous. Earlier on the Wildcats trailed 5-0 before pulling to within 7-6. The six points for Villanova were fueled by two kills apiece from Pettit and sophomore outside hitter Lauren Carpenter (Lakewood, Colo.). Pettit also had two block assists (with Berendt and Rembert) to prevent the Cornhuskers from continuing to pull away.
The next run that the Wildcats made was the biggest of the evening by either team, as they used a 17-4 spurt to turn an 11-7 deficit into a commanding 24-15 lead. Crutchfield had five of her nine kills during the third set and Villanova had 16 kills with just five errors to force a fourth set.
"We served better and that fueled our run," Steinbach said. "Mariah served really well and we made some big plays defensively. Early in that run we got our confidence and started to realize that we could play. Up until then I wasn't sure but our kids found their confidence right there and the big run was more mental than anything physical we did."
The teams alternated points for nearly the entire fourth set. Nebraska eventually pulled away from a 20-20 tie and scored the final five points of the match, but until that run the teams had not been separated by more than two points throughout the entire set. Villanova turned around an early 5-4 deficit with a 5-1 run for a 9-6 lead and would not trail again until the Cornhuskers grabbed a 13-12 lead. The final advantage of the set for the Wildcats was 18-16 before Nebraska scored three straight to pick up some steam.
Kadie Rolfzen and Kelsey Robinson each had double-doubles for the Cornhuskers. Rolfzen recorded a team-high 14 kills to go along with 11 digs, while Robinson had 13 kills and 19 digs. Noteworthy in the final team stats was nearly even blocking, with Nebraska finishing with 9.0 total blocks compared to 8.0 for the Wildcats.
Villanova plays its second and final match of the weekend on Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern time when it faces Southern Miss (3-2). The Golden Eagles took on Georgia on Friday and were defeated in straight sets.
"Southern Miss will be tough," Steinbach said. "They have a big left-side hitter who can really score and will present some problems. One of their middles also scores well and they are going to be a totally different team and a different look from what we saw tonight. It's a whole new match so we will head back to the hotel and prepare for them tomorrow afternoon."