Oct. 21, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Facing one of the perennial contenders in the BIG EAST Conference on Sunday afternoon Villanova (10-14, 4-5 BIG EAST) was swept in three sets by Notre Dame (15-6, 8-1 BIG EAST) at Jake Nevin Field House, falling by set scores of 25-15, 25-18 and 25-13. This is just the fifth time in 37 conference matches over the last three seasons that the Wildcats have been dealt a 3-0 loss.
Despite the outcome Villanova continued to play good defense, with junior libero Mariah Henley (Hockessin, Del.) leading the charge. Henley had 24 digs in the match, marking the 14th time this season she has reached at least 20 digs and also giving her a total of 81 digs in her last 10 sets played.
Sophomore defensive specialist Ally Moskitis (Long Beach, Calif.) and sophomore setter Allie DiBernardo (Coto de Caza, Calif.) added nine digs apiece for the Wildcats, who boast the individual BIG EAST leader in digs (Henley) and who also claim the team lead with an average of 17.7 per set.
"We played hard today against a great opponent and never quit regardless of the score," Villanova head coach Josh Steinbach said. "Obviously we need to generate a little bit more offense but the whole team is continuing to work hard and on the defensive end Mariah just continues to be terrific."
Freshman outside hitter Lauren Carpenter (Lakewood, Colo.) led the Wildcats with six kills, while senior outside hitter Krista Andersen (Lakeland, Fla.) and freshman middle blocker Brittany Rembert (Orlando, Fla.) chipped in with five kills apiece. DiBernardo had 13 assists in the last two sets and freshman setter Emma Pettit (Ft. Collins, Colo.) added seven assists in the opening frame.
The second set was the most balanced of the three and Villanova pulled out to a 3-0 lead behind three straight Fighting Irish errors (one service error, two attack errors). Later in the set the Wildcats held their final lead at 9-8 but Notre Dame responded with four straight points for a 12-9 lead that it never relinquished.
Coming out of a timeout a kill by Carpenter pulled Villanova back to within three points at 17-14 but five straight points by the Fighting Irish put the set out of reach. The five-point run started with three kills and a block by Notre Dame, which had 11.0 total team blocks in the match. Carpenter and Andersen each had three kills to lead the Wildcats in the set.
In the opening frame the Fighting Irish trailed just once, after the opening point, and gradually pulled away during the middle of the set. Villanova trailed by three points, 11-8, after a kill by freshman outside hitter Colleen Hickey (West Chester, Pa.) but Notre Dame reeled off seven of the next eight points to extend its lead to a 17-9 margin.
With the end result in sight the Fighting Irish jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the third set and never let the Wildcats come closer than five points the rest of the way. Hilary Eppink led a deep and balanced Notre Dame roster with nine kills for the afternoon.
Villanova returns to the court on Saturday afternoon when it hosts Syracuse at 1 p.m. The match is the annual "Dig Pink" match for the Wildcats and fans who are attending the match are encouraged to wear pink to show their support for increasing awareness about breast cancer. Donations are now being accepted to support the Villanova partnership with the Side Out Foundation, which is raising money to support the Dig Pink campaign. Click here to make a donation.
NOTES: Dating back to the 2007 season the Wildcats had won four of their last six matches against the Fighting Irish, including a 3-1 decision in South Bend last season ... Henley had 12 of her 24 digs in the first set of today's match ... She averaged 8.10 digs per set in three matches this week to push her league-leading season average to 5.85 digs per set ... Today's match was the second in a four-match home stand.