‘Cats come back to pounce Owls

Courtney Scrib

After nearly six weeks of playing on the road, returning home could not have felt sweeter for the women’s volleyball team as the Wildcats secured their first victory in eight games.

“It’s been a rough season so far,” junior outside hitter Celine Nguyen said. “But during these hard times, it’s even more crucial that we stick together and support each other, both on and off the court.”

As she has done throughout the season, Nguyen played a key role in helping Villanova defeat Temple, 3-2, on Tuesday night. Her consecutive kills in the decisive fifth game gave the Wildcats the momentum they needed to take the lead and ultimately rally to a 3-2 win. By the end of the night, Nguyen had recorded the first “20-20” match of her career with 21 kills and 20 digs.

“We need Celine to play the way she did that night every night in order to be successful,” head coach Gilad Doron said.

However, Nguyen was not the only Wildcat dominating the court.

Freshman Kacy Sellers, who has become one of Villanova’s most accurate hitters and the team’s top blocker, added another 20 kills and hit an impressive .485.

In addition, junior outside hitter Dana Kabashima, as well as sophomore Jen Lalli, also posted double-doubles.

“I really have to give the girls credit,” Doron said after his team defeated his alma mater. “They went out there, enjoyed themselves and played hard against a very good Temple team. I am very proud of them.”

With the departure of freshman Stephanie Olsen, Lalli, who reached a career-high 51 assists in the Temple game, was chosen to take over as the team’s setter. So far Doron and her teammates could not be more pleased with her performance.

“Jen has done a great job of stepping up and filling in for Stephanie, who was a likely candidate for Freshman Player of the Year,” Doron said. “The more control she plays with and the better communication she has with her teammates, the better Jen and our team will be.”

Despite setting the pace early in Tuesday’s match, Villanova’s lead slipped away as the Owls came from behind to win both the second and third games.

Rather than be discouraged, though, the Wildcats fought back and held Temple to a 0.831 hitting percentage in the final two games.

Collectively, the Wildcats hit .236, which was a marked improvement from their past seven matches.

In last Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Georgetown, the ‘Cats committed 26 attack errors and only hit .095.

“Although there are weaknesses in our team, there are also strengths,” Nguyen said, “and this is what we need to capitalize on.”

By defeating Temple, the Wildcats put an end to their seven-game losing streak, which was the longest since the 1999 season, and also improved their home record to 4-0 for the season.

This weekend Villanova (5-13) will be on the road yet again for another tough couple of matches against Big East opponents. On Saturday at 2 p.m., the team visits West Virginia, followed by another afternoon game at Pittsburgh on Sunday.

The Wildcats, who were chosen in preseason polls to finish fifth in the Big East conference, have beaten Pittsburgh just four times in their last 30 tries.

Although the odds may be against them, the ‘Cats remain focused and plan on proving the predictions wrong.

“Playing with confidence and bringing energy and fire to the court are what we need to succeed,” Nguyen said. “I believe this team can do it.”