Nov. 7, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. -Only six matches remain in the season and the Villanova volleyball team (12-11, 4-6 BIG EAST) is two back in the loss column of the final BIG EAST postseason slot. With that said, this weekend's three matches at home could very certainly determine the Wildcats fate for the season.
On Friday, Creighton (16-6, 7-3 BIG EAST) will make its first trip to the Northeast to take on Villanova for the first time ever. The following evening, the Wildcats will take on Butler (19-6, 6-4 BIG EAST) who is currently slated in that final postseason slot. Both matches are set to begin at 6 p.m.
Julie Joyce, Carly Edwards and Mariah Henley will then play the final home match of their careers, Sunday against Xavier (16-9, 7-3 BIG EAST) at 3 p.m. on Senior Day. All matches will take place at the Jake Nevin Field House.
"Senior day is always a special day. It's kind of a bittersweet match and exciting to celebrate kids that have been such a great part of our program. Julie, Carly and Mariah have been unbelievable contributors to the program so it's great to have a time where we could just spend talking about what they've done and what great student, athletes and people they've been," head coach Josh Steinbach said. "But it's going to be hard to let them go as well, we're going to miss them dearly. Their certainly a class near and dear to my heart and I appreciate everything they've done for Villanova volleyball."
The conference sends the top four teams to the BIG EAST championship in Omaha, Neb. and as of now Creighton, Xavier and Butler rank second, third and fourth in the conference, respectively. Since the Wildcats final six matches of the year are a home-and-away against these squads and Villanova sits in a three-way tie for fifth place in the BIG EAST, the Wildcats essentially control their own postseason fate.
"We've put ourselves in position to win some matches against some of the best teams in the league," Steinbach added. "Fortunately for us, we still feel it's in our hands but we're going to have to put together one heck of a run here at the end."
Villanova is currently 7-2 with only 12 dropped sets this year at the Jake Nevin Field House. If the Wildcats are to make any postseason push, they need to ride that success at home and play flawless volleyball against some of the conference's top teams.
"We've been better at Jake Nevin so we'll be looking forward to playing at home," Steinbach said. "It's a tough weekend playing three in a row at home but we'd rather be playing three in a row at home than three in a row on the road."
Creighton is 6-2 in its last eight BIG EAST matches with two of those losses coming over the past two weeks to Marquette and a St. John's squad that Villanova earned a split against. The Blue Jays are currently ranked ninth in this week's RPI ranking and own six wins over NCAA tournament teams from 2012.
Similar to Creighton, Butler is new to the BIG EAST this season. The Bulldogs are 7-3 in their past 10 conference matches with a signature victory (3-1) over a nationally ranked Creighton squad at the time.
Before a 3-2 loss to Marquette, Xavier was enjoying a four-match winning streak. However, the Musketeers have won three consecutive matches away from Ohio and travel to Georgetown before taking on the Wildcats Sunday afternoon.
When asked what Villanova needs to do to come out on top this weekend, Steinbach responded with "it's time to play for our seniors and put together a good run for them. They've done so much for the program and university and they've been exactly what we expect Villanova student-athletes to be. We're hoping our team rallies around them in their last home stand and sends them out with a bang."
On Nov. 4, sophomore Gabby Pethokoukis was named to the BIG EAST Honor Roll for the second time this season after totaling a match-high 24 points to go along with a career-best 19 kills, while hitting .429 and adding a personal season-high seven blocks.
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