Volleyball feels effects of injuries

Courtney Scrib

To compete against top nationally-ranked teams is tough enough but to compete against them without a full roster or several key players is even tougher.

During last weekend’s Wildcat Classic tournament at Northwestern, the women’s volleyball team faced some of the toughest competition in the country, including Western Kentucky and 13th-ranked Stanford.

Despite a tenacious effort, the Wildcats dropped three matches and now hold a 3-6 overall record.

“It was a rough week for us,” senior Kerri Sullivan said, “but we learned a lot about our team depth.”

An injury has prevented Sullivan, who was last season’s offensive leader and one of the most consistent middle blockers in the Big East, from playing this season.

In its first match of the tournament against Northwestern, Villanova committed 28 attack errors, 12 of those coming in the first half alone. These mistakes allowed the Northwestern Wildcats to defeat the Villanova Wildcats in three games, 30-16, 30-24 and 30-23.

Another blow came to the team when outside hitter and all-team tournament player Celine Nguyen sprained her ankle during a warm-up for a pre-game practice.

“I was extremely disappointed that I couldn’t play, especially against Stanford, a team whom I had always admired and dreamed of playing against,” Nguyen said, “but I had faith in my team that they could compete without me.”

With the absence of veterans like Sullivan and Nguyen, the younger and less-experienced players were forced to step up and prove that they could keep pace with the powerhouse volleyball school.

Leading the Wildcats in Saturday’s game against Stanford was freshman outside hitter Kacy Sellers, who had 13 kills. Meanwhile, her classmate and last week’s Big East Rookie of the Week, Stephanie Olsen, dished out 37 assist and added four kills and a pair of blocks. She ended the weekend with a total 105 assists.

“We have an amazing freshman class.” Sullivan said. “They are going to take this program far and help put Villanova’s name back on the list of big volleyball schools.”

In addition to the underclassmen, junior defensive specialist Megan Bye, who had to fill in for the injured Nguyen, also made a name for herself by becoming a force on the offensive end and reaching a career-high 10 kills.

Ultimately, however, the Cardinals, who made just 14 attacks errors in the entire match and hit .340 as a team, defeated the Wildcats by scores of 30-21, 30-23 and 32-20.

For the team, the tournament and particularly, the game against Stanford, served more as a test than as a setback.

“The weekend was an eye opener for us,” junior outside hitter Dana Kabashima said. “It showed us that we can compete with top-ranked teams.”

Kabashima averaged 2.5 kills and three digs per game throughout the two-day tournament.

Villanova played its final match on Saturday night and ended up falling to the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers in four games (30-18, 30-14, 28-30 and 30-23).

Once again, Bye, Sellers and sophomore middle blocker Adrian Semrau put out solid performances that enabled the Wildcats to hold their own against a tough Western Kentucky team.

“It was a hard weekend, but I keep telling the girls to keep their confidence,” head coach Gilad Doron said. “Even with the injuries, we have to keep fighting to compete and get healthy. Like any situation, we need to play through.”

On Oct. 1, the Wildcats travel to Piscataway, N.J., to play rival Connecticut in the Big East Challenge.