Women’s volleyball squanders early lead, falls to Big East rival Pittsburgh on the road

Caitlin Sullivan

The women’s volleyball team traveled west to face stiff competition from the University of Pittsburgh last Sunday afternoon, eventually falling to the Panthers in three games. The loss brought the Wildcats to a season record of 16-11 (5-7 Big East).

The team started off strong in the first game of the match. A Panther kill error increased the Wildcat lead to four points halfway through the first game. Pitt fought back, going on a three-point run at 23-19 and forcing a Villanova timeout. Sophomore Maggie Mergen entered the court with a kill, but the Wildcats could not start a run and, with a final Pitt kill, fell 21-25.

‘Nova rallied in the second game to gain a large lead of 11-4. Pitt closed the gap with four unanswered points to tighten the score to 14-12, resulting in a ‘Nova timeout. The Wildcats finally ended the Pitt rally after two more points when senior outside hitter Elysse Studzinski finally found the floor. A service ace from Sophomore Kim Maroon, two Studzinski kills and one more kill from Mergen gave Villanova the 19-16 advantage. The Panthers stopped Villanova here and continued to sweep through the rest of the game to win 20-25.

The Wildcats seemed unable to find their rhythm in the beginning of game three, quickly falling to 8-16. Double kills from sophomore middle Marie Nolan and a kill from Studzinski coupled with five Panther errors sparked life back into the ‘Cats and brought them within two. Pitt started a minor rally, but the kills put Villanova within one point at 20-21. Studzinski and freshman outside hitter Krista Andersen’s kill attempts were both stopped at the net, letting Pitt clinch the match with a final game score of 20-25.

The sophomore class had an impressive showing in Pittsburgh as middle hitter Mergen amassed 10 kills, while Nolan chipped in another six kills at a .400 hitting percentage. Maroon totaled 16 digs, and outside hitter Kara Chatham added nine more. Setter Courtney Oertli had 28 assists and seven digs.

Studzinski added six more kills.

Next weekend, the Wildcats are on the road to Syracuse and Marquette to round out the regular season play. The team looks to solidify its spot in the upcoming Big East tournament.