Great Team Effort Leads Wildcats Past Rutgers, 3-1
Sept. 28, 2012
Josh Steinbach Post-Match Interview
VILLANOVA, Pa.--Being back on its home court for the first time in over a month proved to be just what Villanova (6-10, 1-2 BIG EAST) needed and the Wildcats came away with a 3-1 victory over Rutgers (14-4, 0-3 BIG EAST) at Jake Nevin Field House on Friday night. Villanova hosted "Jam the Jake" night in conjunction with the men's basketball team and in its home conference opener defeated the Scarlet Knights by set scores of 25-16, 25-21, 23-25 and 25-21 to snap a six-match losing streak.
"I feel particularly good about this win because it was a really good team performance," Wildcats head coach Josh Steinbach said. "Mariah Henley was really good defensively and helped us out a lot. Our setting was as good as it has been all year long and offensively this was our best overall performance. We had not gotten as many good swings in a match as we did tonight."
Henley led the Villanova defense with a career high 34 digs and was one of four Wildcats in double figures for the evening. She also had six assists and two service aces to round out a strong night in a winning effort. The match marked the second time in her career - both instances have come this season - that Henley reached 30 digs in a match.
From an offensive standpoint Villanova was nearly unstoppable in the first two sets. In the opening set the Wildcats nailed down 19 kills with just a single attack error and hit .429 for the set. The second set was more of the same and Villanova tallied 14 kills with only three errors. Along the way to taking a 2-0 lead in the match the Wildcats hit .397 as a team in the first two sets.
A well-rounded Villanova offense featured four players with nine or more kills. Freshman outside hitter Lauren Carpenter (Lakewood, Colo.) led the team with 14 kills, senior outside hitter Krista Andersen (Lakeland, Fla.) added 12 kills and freshman middle blocker Gabby Pethokoukis (Western Springs, Ill.) chipped in 11 kills while hitting .292 for the evening. Senior middle blocker CeCe Twitty (Scottsdale, Ariz.) attacked at a team-best .381 clip while producing nine kills with only one error.
Andersen and Twitty were the focal points of the offense early on and each finished the first set with five kills and no errors. Freshman setter Emma Pettit (Ft. Collins, Colo.) had 18 assists in the first set alone and the Wildcats led from start to finish in a dominating performance that gave them an early 1-0 lead. Pettit went on to finish with 43 assists and 16 digs to notch her third double-double of the season.
Rutgers jumped out to a quick 9-3 lead in the second set but Villanova erased the deficit almost as fast and eventually pulled even at 14-14 on consecutive kills by Carpenter and Twitty midway through the set. The score was tied three more times in the next six points before the Wildcats went ahead for the first time at 18-17 on a kill by Pettit. Five points later consecutive kills by Carpenter snapped a 20-20 tie and put Villanova ahead to stay.
Through those first two sets the Wildcats offensive totals included 33 kills and just four errors, a remarkable pace that would have been nearly impossible to keep up. Villanova showed no early indications it would slow down though, and ran off seven consecutive points to race out to a 7-0 lead behind a combined three kills from Carpenter and Twitty, plus four mistakes committed by Rutgers.
A kill by Kylie Orr accounted for the first point in the set by the Scarlet Knights, who broke away for a 10-3 run which tied the score at 10-10. There wound up being nine ties and five lead changes in the set but consecutive kills by Alex Lassa broke a 22-22 tie and sent Rutgers on its way to forcing a fourth set.
In the final set the Wildcats turned the tables after the Scarlet Knights took a 14-10 lead. Four straight points tied the score at 14-14 and an ace by Twitty put Villanova in front to stay at 20-19. Junior outside hitter Carly Edwards (Okemos, Mich.) followed with a kill and then a Rutgers attack error gave the Wildcats a little bit of breathing room for the final few points.
Freshman defensive specialist Michelle Adams (Sugar Land, Texas) had 13 digs and sophomore defensive specialist Ally Moskitis (Long Beach, Calif.) added 12 digs and two aces. Her two service aces came on consecutive points in the third set. Sophomore setter Allie DiBernardo (Coto de Caza, Calif.) had nine digs and two assists while providing Villanova with a defensive spark.
"Allie really made a difference in the fourth set," Steinbach said. "She came in, picked up a bunch of balls and defended really well. We were able to keep getting good swings and keep plugging away. Gabby came up with a big swing to end it."
The first home weekend of conference play continues for the Wildcats on Sunday afternoon when they host Seton Hall starting at 2 p.m.
"Hopefully getting the win tonight will give us some momentum on Sunday," Steinbach said. "This was a great effort but Seton Hall will be a whole new match where we need to come out and get after it."
Fans who attended "Jam the Jake" night were treated to free pizza on the way into the match and the first 200 fans in attendance received free t-shirts. The men's basketball team was also on hand to sign autographs before the start of the match.
"We had a really great crowd tonight and benefited from their support," Steinbach said. "It was great to see everyone out here and we are looking forward to another big crowd on Sunday afternoon."
NOTES: Henley's previous career high of 30 digs came in a five-set win over New Hampshire on August 25, the last home match Villanova had played prior to this evening ... Pettit previously had double-doubles (assists-digs) against Temple and Gonzaga earlier this year ... Edwards had a team-high three block assists in the match.