En route to securing two consecutive wins against Big East competitors, the women’s volleyball team found themselves making history.
The odds going into Saturday’s match against Pittsburgh were not in Villanova’s favor. Playing at Pittsburgh against a team that earned a number two preseason conference ranking and featured last year’s Big East Rookie of the Year, the Wildcats (12-3, 2-0 BIG EAST) knew winning would not be easy.
In addition to the home court and size advantage, history was also on the Panthers side. The last time Villanova had defeated Pittsburgh was seven years ago on Oct. 9, 1998.
“There was a lot of pressure and excitement going into our Big East opener at Pittsburgh,” sophomore outside hitter Kacy Sellers said, “but we knew that this year’s team is different and that we could do it.”
In a closely contested match that featured 16 ties, the Wildcats relied on their solid preparation and ability to be patient. They ultimately came together to shut out a very physical Pittsburgh team, 30-23, 30-25, 20-21. In addition to out blocking the Panthers 10.0 to 6.0, ‘Nova also out-hit their opponents .228 to .049.
Leading the way for the ‘Cats was junior Adrian Semrau with 14 kills and three blocks. Sellers also made a big contribution with her errorless performance of seven kills on nine attempts and a .778 hitting percentage.
“We played the way we should,” head coach Gilad Doron said. “Things fell our way, and when things fall your way as a result of hard work, you gain more confidence and want to work even harder.”
However, the team had little time to savor the success. On Sunday the Wildcats traveled to West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers.
After struggling in the first game (22-30), Villanova bounced back in the next three games to correct its errors and take the match (30-19, 30-26, 30-22).
Just as it had been in the Pittsburgh game, the Wildcats success was a result of an entire team effort in which multiple players
stepped up to fill different roles.
Semrau once again recorded team-bests in kills (15) and blocks (7). The two other Wildcats to reach double figures were Sellers, with 10 kills and six blocks, and freshman Alona Cherkez. In her fifth double-double of the year, Cherkez had 14 kills and 19 digs.
“The girls were able to do different things to help us win,” Doron said. “When we play together and well, good things can happen.”
With the upcoming match against No. 6 Louisville on Saturday, the team realizes it is going to need more than just good fortune and a home court advantage to pull off an upset over the Cardinals.
“There is no doubt that this match is going to be very, very tough,” Doron said. “We can’t think that just because we beat Pittsburgh that we can beat Louisville. Our job is to make them work really hard.”
Joining Louisville in the national standings this week is Notre Dame who earned a No. 10 ranking. It is the first time in Big East conference history that two of the women’s volleyball teams have been ranked in the top 25 simultaneously.
As the competition intensifies, the Wildcats continue to stay focused on reaching their main goal: qualifying for the Big East tournament.
“As long as we settle down and play our game, we have a shot with any team,” Doron said, “[but] even if we don’t win this weekend, we will be better prepared for when we face Louisville in the tournament.”
After playing Louisville on Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats host Cincinnati on Sunday at 2 pm in the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse.