Wildcats Drop Conference Opener to Connecticut, 3-1
Sept. 22, 2012
STORRS, Conn. - A big run that began midway through the fourth set proved to be the turning point in the match and Villanova (5-9, 0-1 BIG EAST) lost its conference opener to Connecticut (10-6, 1-0 BIG EAST) by a final score of 3-1 at Gampel Pavilion on Friday night. The set scores were 25-20, 19-25, 25-17 and 25-21 in a match whose result was up for grabs until the Huskies decisive run.
Midway through the fourth set the Wildcats used a 6-1 run to grab a 16-12 lead and looked to maintain that advantage and force a fifth set. Connecticut however, came back from the four-point deficit and won 13 of the final 18 points played to close out both the set and the match. Even with the Huskies making their run the score of the final set was tied at 18-18 and Villanova was within one point at 20-19 but consecutive points by Connecticut created some breathing room with a 22-19 lead.
Senior outside hitter Krista Andersen (Lakeland, Fla.) and freshman outside hitter Lauren Carpenter (Lakewood, Colo.) had 13 kills apiece and the Wildcats recovered from a rocky opening set to hit effectively the rest of the match.
Five different players for Villanova added at least three total blocks and freshman middle blocker Gabby Pethokoukis (Western Springs, Ill.) led the way with a season-high tying seven block assists. Senior middle blocker CeCe Twitty (Scottsdale, Ariz.) added two solo blocks and three block assists to help the Wildcats finish with a season-high 14.0 blocks as a team.
In the opening set Villanova committed 10 errors and hit -.051 while the Huskies pulled away from a 16-16 tie with six straight points along the way to a 25-20 win and an early 1-0 lead. The second set was a polar opposite for the Wildcats, who tallied 13 kills with just one error (.400 hitting percentage) while tying the match at one set apiece.
Andersen and Carpenter combined for 10 of the 13 kills for Villanova in the second set and neither made a single error. Before settling on a final score of 25-19 in the set the Wildcats led by as many as 10 points. Freshman setter Emma Pettit (Ft. Collins, Colo.) produced 12 of her 26 assists and two of her three total blocks in the set, while Pethokoukis and senior outside hitter Carly Edwards (Okemos, Mich.) also had two block assists.
The tables turned again in the third set as Connecticut stretched an early 6-3 lead into a margin of as many as 11 points (21-10) before finishing the set at 25-17 and retaking the lead at 2-1 in the match. The fourth and final set was tied 12 times but a kill by Andersen which made the score 17-16 marked the final Villanova lead of the night. Two straight points gave the Huskies an 18-17 lead and, following a bad set which tied the score once again at 18-18, a service error by the Wildcats gave Connecticut the lead for good.
Junior libero Mariah Henley (Hockessin, Del.) had a match-high 28 digs and sophomore setter Allie DiBernardo (Coto de Caza, Calif.) added 10 digs and eight assists. Andersen also led the team with a pair of service aces.
Villanova is back in action on Sunday afternoon at St. John's for a 2 p.m. match.
NOTES: Tonight's match marked the third time this season that the Wildcats have at least 10.0 total blocks as a team ... The other occasions were in back-to-back outings against Temple (12.0) and Penn (11.0) on September 1 ... Tonight's total of 14.0 team blocks was the highest for Villanova since it had 18.0 total blocks against Seton Hall on October 20, 2007 ... Andersen hit a team-best .306 with 13 kills and just two errors on 36 hitting attempts in tonight's match ... The Wildcats are 3-3 in BIG EAST openers under head coach Josh Steinbach and had won their first league match in each of the past two seasons.