Dec. 5, 1997
Wildcat Comeback Attempt Cut Short in First NCAA Appearance
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Falling behind 2-0 to Northern Illinois in their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, Villanova came back to even the match at 2-2, only to fall to the Huskies 3-2 (6-15, 11-15, 15-12, 16-14, 14-16) in the NCAA Tournament first round on Friday, Dec. 5, at Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University. With the loss, the Wildcats end their season with a 20-9 overall record.
Northern Illinois jumped out to a quick start defeating Villanova 15-6 in the night's first game, despite four kills each by junior Elizabeth Jones (Los Altos, CA./ St. Francis H.S.) and freshman Ruth Ann Blankenheim (Lighthouse Point, FL./ Cardinal Gibbons).
Behind four service aces, Villanova took a 7-3 lead in the second game. The Huskies came back with seven straight points, however, and beat the Wildcats 15-11 to take a 2-0 lead into the third game.
Despite being down 2-0, Villanova would not die as they mounted a rally of their own. Behind senior Marisa Davidson (Mt. Airy, MD./ Glenelg) who finished with eight kills in the third game alone, the Wildcats won game three 15-12.
Down 14-11 in the fourth game and one point away from elimination, Villanova scored five straight points with Davidson tallying three of the five, to even the match up at 2-2.
The fifth and final game was a shootout with the Wildcats and Huskies trading point after point. Villanova rallied from a 7-5 deficit to take a 9-8 lead, later increasing their lead to 14-12. Northern Illinois would score the next four points, however, to win 16-14 and advance to play Penn State in the NCAA second round.
"It was an honor being in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Villanova volleyball history and we did ourselves proud," said head coach M.J. Engstrom.
The Wildcats were led by Davidson who finished the match with a team-high 23 kills to go along with 16 digs, while Jones tallied 14 kills and 25 digs. Playing in her last game along with Davidson and outside hitter Kris Tomasovic (Tigard, OR/ St. Mary's Acad.), middle blocker Stacy Evans (Los Altos, CA./ St. Francis H.S.) had 11 kills and 21 digs. In addition to playing in their first NCAA Tournament, Villanova's appearance was the first-ever at-large bid by a Big East Conference team.
"Making the NCAA Tournament was special because we had a goal to make it here for all four years," said senior Stacy Evans. "Marisa (Davidson), Kris (Tomasovic) and I are seniors now, but we did it."