Sept. 30, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Freshman outside hitter Lauren Carpenter (Lakewood, Colo.) put down two consecutive kills for the final points of the match and Villanova (7-10, 2-2 BIG EAST) staved off multiple comeback bids by Seton Hall (15-2, 3-1 BIG EAST) for a 3-2 win at Jake Nevin Field House on Sunday afternoon. Five straight points by the Wildcats to end the match put the finishing touches on a 25-22, 19-25, 25-16, 25-27, 15-12 victory in which the team received significant contributions from every player on the floor.
"That is what it takes to win a match like this," Villanova head coach Josh Steinbach said. "We defended well with everybody that was out there and just kind of passed it around from an offensive standpoint. Everyone did their part when they were on the court and that helps us a lot."
Carpenter had a team-high 14 kills to lead the Wildcats and senior outside hitter Krista Andersen (Lakeland, Fla.) also reached double figures with 12 kills and a team-best .225 attack percentage thanks to only three errors. Villanova also blocked well and racked up 13.0 total team blocks, with freshman middle blocker Gabby Pethokoukis (Western Springs, Ill.) and junior outside hitter Carly Edwards (Okemos, Mich.) leading the way with seven and five total blocks, respectively.
Junior libero Mariah Henley (Hockessin, Del.) led a balanced defensive effort with 24 digs, while sophomore setter Allie DiBernardo (Coto de Caza, Calif.) added 18 digs and freshman setter Emma Pettit (Ft. Collins, Colo.) contributed 12 digs to go along with distributing 39 assists.
"Allie is getting better and better as a defensive player but beyond that we just like having her on the court," Steinbach said. "Her personality when she is out there is something that the rest of the team really feeds off of."
Entering the match the Pirates were undefeated in BIG EAST play, had won 12 straight matches overall and had lost just three sets in their last five outings. Despite those accolades the Wildcats more than held their own from the outset and really began to exert control over the match in the third and fourth sets. Big rallies by Seton Hall in the last two sets nearly turned the tables, however.
Villanova led the match 2-1 and was cruising in the fourth set with leads of 17-8 and 20-13 before the Pirates tried to mount a comeback. Seton Hall pulled to within two points at 22-20 with a 7-2 run but the Wildcats were still in excellent shape after a ball handling error and a block by Edwards and Pethokoukis made the score 24-20 and set up match point for Villanova with what appeared to be some breathing room.
Each of four match points went the other way however, and the Pirates wound up going ahead 25-24 with the most dramatic of their rallies. An attack error by Seton Hall delayed set point in the Pirates favor but a serving error by the Wildcats and a kill by Molly Grammer extended the match to a fifth set.
In the deciding set the teams alternated points in seesaw fashion until the score was tied 4-4. A kill by Andersen sparked four unanswered points and pushed Villanova out to an 8-4 lead. Once again Seton Hall stormed back and an 8-2 run gave the Pirates a 12-10 advantage which forced the Wildcats to use a timeout for the second time in a span of just two points.
Following the Villanova timeout the pendulum swung back in the Wildcats favor for good. Pethokoukis registered her seventh kill of the match to start the match-ending run and an attack error by Seton Hall evened the score at 12-12. Freshman outside hitter Colleen Hickey (West Chester, Pa.) and Pethokoukis came up with a block on the next play to put Villanova back in front at 13-12 and - after a timeout by the Pirates - Carpenter nailed down the final two points of the match.
"We are a young team and sometimes it is good to have a lot of freshmen on the floor," Steinbach said. "They didn't play like it was the fifth set or let it affect them that Seton Hall made a comeback. They just made the plays they needed to and that was great for us."
There was a stretch from the middle of the third set through the middle of the fourth set where the Wildcats outscored the Pirates by a 30-14 margin. Villanova led 12-10 in the third set when it broke away for six straight points and an 18-10 lead, which eventually grew into a nine-point margin of victory (25-16) in the set.
It looked like the fourth set would be more of the same, as the Wildcats turned a 3-2 deficit into a 6-3 lead, then pulled an 8-5 advantage into a commanding 17-8 margin before having to overcome the best efforts by Seton Hall the rest of the way.
Contributions such as the block assist by Hickey late in the fifth set and a pair of kills by freshman middle blocker Brittany Rembert (Orlando, Fla.) during the fourth set underscored the type of team effort that Steinbach spoke about.
"Brittany gave us a little pop off the bench when we needed it," Steinbach said. "Krista Andersen had a good match and at times Lauren Carpenter and Gabby Pethokoukis stepped up in big spots. Everyone did a little bit to make the winning result possible."
When the match started the teams appeared to be evenly matched, but neither side came out firing on all cylinders. Villanova committed seven hitting errors and had a -.028 hitting percentage in the first set, which was still enough for a three-point margin of victory (25-22) in the frame. That was because the Pirates accumulated 13 hitting errors and hit -.047 for the set, hardly a harbinger of how well both teams would play for the rest of the afternoon.
Shelbey Manthorpe paced Seton Hall with a triple-double which included 16 kills, 17 digs and 24 assists. Grammer added 15 kills and Alyssa Warren had 40 digs for the Pirates, who wound up with 42 errors and an .095 attack percentage for the match.
After playing 12 straight matches away from home the Wildcats return to Jake Nevin Field House this weekend was an outstanding one. Villanova defeated Rutgers in four sets on Friday night and is 4-1 at home this season after Sunday afternoon's victory.
"If nothing else we have learned that this is a difficult place for opposing teams to play and that we do play better on our home court," Steinbach said. "We like having a crowd in the building and the support from our fans was great this weekend. Hopefully they will continue to come out."
Just one match is on the schedule for the Wildcats next weekend. Villanova travels to Georgetown on Saturday afternoon for a 3 p.m. match.