Wildcats pick up first win in Lansing

Stephen Buszka

By Stephen BuszkaSports Editor

Off to a slow start this year, the volleyball team headed to East Lansing, Mich. looking for their first win of the season. After dropping the first game, they found it, knocking off the University of Miami (Fla.) in their second game of the tournament. The momentum from the close win didn’t carry over, however, as the Wildcats ended up falling to Eastern Michigan in their third and final game of the weekend.

On Friday, riding the tails of a three-game losing streak, the ‘Cats went into the Spartan Invitational hoping to best Michigan State. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. The ‘Cats fell in three straight games by scores of 30-22, 30-19 and 30-27. The loss dropped Villanova to 0-4 on the season.

The next morning, the ‘Cats started off right where they left off by losing a close game to the University of Miami Hurricanes by a score of 30-28. Part of the reason for this first loss was a low .075 hitting percentage for ‘Nova compared to a .207 posted by the Hurricanes. During game two of the match, Villanova began to turn the tide by picking up the win with a score of 30-28. The win was their first since the third game of their first match of the season against Cal State Fullerton. The ‘Cats momentum stuttered in the third game of the match when they fell to the Hurricanes by, once again, a score of 30-28. Despite a solid .319 hitting percentage, Villanova was outdone by a .400 from the Hurricanes.

Down two games to one, the Wildcats turned up the heat on the Hurricanes in another close victory. This 31-29 victory, the closest of the match, seemed to be all the momentum ‘Nova needed as they blew the Hurricanes out of the water in the fifth and final game to win 15-8.

“I think our team just decided that we wanted the match worse than Miami,” Senior Adrian Semrau said.  “We have always said, ‘We love game five!’ and we just put our minds to the task at hand, making sure we served tough, passed well and executed our offense.”

The key to this game-five victory was a blistering .769 hitting percentage, which bested the Hurricanes’ .167.

Sophomore Alona Cherkez led the way for the Wildcats, leading the team with 25 kills, which was tops in the match, besting the next highest total of 18 kills by Miami’s Genevieve Mayhew. Three other ‘Cats also posted double-digit kills including Semrau, sophomore Dana Tartasky and junior Kacy Sellers who had 15, 15 and 13 respectively. Freshman Chelsea Graman helped out with 46 assists. The two hour and 21 minute game might have worn the team out, but the win was worth it.

“Miami was an exhilarating win for us, and it was personally rewarding for Kelly [Ludwig] and I who had lost to Miami as freshmen three years ago,” Semrau said.  “We have worked so hard this preseason and have faced very talented competition, culminating in this five-game win against a tough team – it was important to see the fruits of our labor in such a hard match.”

After improving their record to 1-4, the ‘Cats then looked to put up a crooked number in the win column against East Michigan. This effort was in vain, however, as the Eagles were able to fight off the worn-out Wildcats.

“Fatigue was definitely a factor,” Semrau said.  “Although we are in great shape, after conditioning all summer and through an intense preseason, the Eastern Michigan match was the third match in two days.  Also, we had to give it everything we had to pull out the win versus Miami, so it was difficult to come play another tough squad just two hours later.”

The wear and tear was too much for the team as the Wildcats fell in three straight games by scores of 31-29, 30-23 and 30-27. Villanova’s record dropped to 1-5 on the year.

Aside from picking up the win, Villanova’s other bright spot for the weekend was the play of Semrau who picked up 2006 Spartan Classic All-Tournament Team honors. Semrau posted a .247 hitting percentage and recorded 39 kills during the two-day tournament.

The Wildcats will take on Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Toledo this weekend in the Kentucky Classic in Lexington, Kent. with two games on Friday and one Saturday and will be looking to post a few more wins.

“Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Toledo will all be tough, but we already see improvement in our team play, and I think that will carry over into this next tournament,” Semrau said. Regardless of the outcome, the tough games should set the team up for Big East competition when it starts later this month.