Courtesy of Villanova Atheltics
The 3-3 Wildcats headed to Dayton to face Missouri State, Dayton and Illinois, and lost all three games, including getting swept by Illinois in three sets.
Villanova started off with its third five-set match in a row, losing to Missouri State, 3-2 (20-25, 16-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-5). It followed that with a third consecutive five-set loss to Dayton (25-19, 23-25, 25-18, 25-23, 15-11). Head coach Josh Steinbach talked before this tournament about their long matches.
“It feels like we’ve been fading at the end of the weekends,” Steinbach said. “We’ve just been going long in every single match and not putting teams away, which makes it very difficult for us.”
By the time the team got to its last and biggest match, Villanova was fading as Steinbach mentioned, and Illinois clamped down and sent them home in three sets (25-16, 25-9, 25-16). Villanova now sits at 3-6 with one tournament left to play before the conference schedule begins.
The Wildcats’ matchup against Missouri State on Friday was the first against the Bears in Steinbach’s tenure.
The first set started with Missouri State jumping out to a quick 7-4 lead before Villanova won eight of the next 11 points. Villanova won 13 of 18 points after, and with the score at 19-14, it finished it off 25-20, with four of its last six points coming off of kills
The second set was much of the same, as Villanova took a 11-4 lead to start and never wavered. It was able to keep on winning points and finally finished off the Bears, 25-16, with two kills from freshman Skylar Gerhardt.
Villanova had a chance to put this thing away going into the third set, which would have conserved some energy for the game later that night against hometown Dayton. But, the third set was all MSU from the jump. The Bears took an early 12-7 lead and continued to pile high, eventually turning the score into 23-19. After a rally, Missouri State finally got a big kill to end the set.
After taking an 8-5 lead in the fourth set, Villanova looked like it might be ready to end it, but that was not to be. Missouri State started to put together big chunks of wins, and all of a sudden, Villanova’s lead was gone and Missouri State was now up, 24-18. After a couple of kills from Villanova, a kill from Missouri State sealed the set win (25-20) and sent Villanova to another dreaded final set.
The fifth set was expected to be as good as the rest, but before the crowd knew it, Missouri State was up 10-3 and would win five of the next seven to make it an easy 15-5 win in that set. Villanova, now tired, would head into its match against Dayton 3-4.
Dayton made its presence known in the first set to the home-crowd of more than 900 people. Leading 12-11, it rattled off six of the next eight to bring it to 18-13 and never looked back, scoring on all three of the final points of the set to seal it, 25-19.
The second set was about as close as it could get. Neither team held a lead bigger than three points during the set despite many runs for each team. With the score tied at 21, Villanova had four of the next six to win the set, thanks to a couple of attack errors and kills.
Dayton took an 11-3 lead to start the third set, and it never got closer. Dayton won 10 of the next 16 points to put it out of reach, and even with a little run from the Wildcats, Dayton handily won the set, 25-18.
The fourth set was easily the best of the match. With Villanova up four midway through the set, Dayton scored six straight points to take the lead 18-16. Villanova came back and was down 23-22 before the Cats scored three straight to win on a kill from senior Belle Morgan.
Villanova was back in a fifth set for the second time on Friday. This time, Villanova kept it close, only being down 13-12. However, three straight kills from Dayton ended Villanova’s night and sent them into a matchup with Illinois now 3-5.
The matchup started out poorly for Villanova and never got better. Illinois took the first six points, and before Villanova knew it, it was 21-14, and Illinois got four kills in six points to end the set, 25-16.
Villanova was within five early in the second set, only down 11-6, but Illinois ended it there, going on a 14-3 run to stun Villanova and end the set, 25-9. The run was helped by six Villanova attack errors and three aces.
The third set was the best Villanova played, with the score being tied at 10, but Illinois got 11 of the next 14, and it was able to finish it off thanks to four straight errors from Villanova.
Villanova left the Illinois game 3-6 and will now head into the last weekend tournament of the year at Yale. It will face Yale (5-1) on Friday followed by Sacred Heart (4-6) and Fordham (6-2) on Saturday. Big East Conference play starts directly after.