‘Cats face top teams at volleyball tourney

Cailin Brophy

The Wildcat volleyball team traveled south to Virginia last week to face some of the nation’s best teams in the George Mason tournament in Fairfax, Va.

Facing a tough doubleheader matchup on Friday against Georgia Tech and Northern Iowa, the ‘Cats were unable to win a match, but still put in a strong effort against the powerhouse teams.

In their first game of the 2002 season, the Wildcats were able to play competitively with Georgia Tech in the first two sets, although they could not scratch out a victory in either. In the third set, however, ‘Nova had difficulty on offense and ended up getting swept by the Yellow Jackets.

Strong performances from senior Leah Matthews and Erin Birunas kept the ‘Cats close throughout, as Matthews tallied six kills and Birunas chipped in five. Sophomore Jennifer Badran-Grycan did her part by adding in six assists and seven digs.

The ‘Cats faced yet another challenge in the second game, taking on nationally-ranked Northern Iowa. The 14th-ranked Panthers defeated ‘Nova in straight sets, 30-20, 30-22 and 30-16. Freshman Meghan Abbott put in a solid effort in her debut season in the loss, racking up 11 kills, while the ever-consistent Matthews added in six kills and seven digs.

Back on the court on Saturday, Villanova was able to pick up its first win of the season against Rice, grinding out the victory in a hard-fought five set match, 30-26, 30-22, 24-30, 24-30, 15-11.

This time around another freshman, Dana Kabashima, teamed up with Matthews to record double-doubles. The ‘Cats jumped out to an early two-set lead against the Owls, only to see it disappear when Rice took the next two sets.

However, ‘Nova battled back in the fifth and final set to get the victory. Junior Jennifer Edwards was a force for Villanova, scoring 36 assists and 16 digs.

In their final game of the tourney, Villanova played host George Mason, who proved to be too tough on its home court. The ‘Cats lost in straight sets, 30-25, 30-29, 30-21. Matthews, sophomore Kerri Sullivan and Kabashima bolstered the ‘Cats in the loss.

Despite the losses, the Wildcats benefitted from the high level of competition at the tournament and will be back on the road looking to improve and tally more victories when they head to North Carolina to compete in the Western Carolina tournament.

Villanova will face the University of Tennessee at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.