Volleyball sweeps Seton Hall, prepares for strong finish

Claire Ferry

The volleyball team heads into the final week of conference play after snapping a two-match losing streak. 

Its sweep of Seton Hall last Saturday (25-19, 25-18, 25-13) provides momentum for the final two matches this upcoming weekend.

In the first set, the Wildcats traded four-point runs with the Pirates before pulling away at 15-13. The second game was much of the same, but the third was marked by consistent dominance on ‘Nova’s side of the net. 

With Allie Loitz at the service line, the team pulled away to a comfortable lead of 17-11. Senior Gabby Pethokoukis pounded a kill to finish off the night.

Typical contributors led the Wildcats, as Claire Crutchfield led the offense with 11 kills while Loitz contributed 14 digs defensively. 

However, this match facilitated the opportunity to develop players on the bench as well—freshman Ashley Knight tallied seven assists after relieving veteran Emma Pettit.

Previous losses against Butler and Xavier a week prior made this commanding home win even more important. With a renewal of confidence, the team can now prepare for its final home games this weekend and the Big East tournament. 

Senior middle blocker Brittany Rembert says, “I think the next two weeks we will be focusing on our weaknesses that we have seen other teams exploit.” 

With Xavier receiving a bid to the Big East tournament, Villanova will work even harder to improve upon their mistakes from the five-set loss a few weeks earlier.

Even with the late losses in their final road trip of the regular season, the Wildcats have remained ranked second in the conference. The team’s performance this season has been one of the best in recent years, and statistics among Big East teams only prove that further. 

The team ranks first in opponent hitting percentage, holding teams to an average .171 percent per game. While this is due to the strong block and back line, it also harkens back to the Wildcats’ aggressive service game. The team ranks second in aces, forcing opponents out of their preferred offensive attack.

Individual players have also stood out in the conference as well. ‘Nova’s combination of senior leadership and talented young players has created a dynamic offense and a dependable defense.

Setter Emma Pettit, one of the seven seniors on the team, runs the offense as well as anyone in the conference and even the nation. She ranks first in the Big East with an average of 11.21 assists per set, enough to place her in the top 25 nationally among setters. Not only does Pettit distribute the ball with precision and smarts, but her serve also ranks her as second in the conference for aces.

Allie Loitz, a sophomore transfer from Pepperdine, brings a dominant presence onto the court as a six-rotation player. Her versatility on both offense and defense creates consistency—she ranks sixth in the Big East in kills yet still plays a key role in serve receive and defense. In her freshman year at Pepperdine, Loitz even undertook the libero role for 15 matches. 

The combination of senior Michelle Adams and sophomore Allie Fitzgerald yet again shows the combination of veteran and young players on the team. Together, they’ve combined for over 600 digs this season. Fitzgerald has averaged 3.69 digs per set and ranks seventh in the conference, while Adams is close behind ranked 11th.

Rembert said, “Allie Fitzgerald and Michelle Adams are two of the strongest defensive players in the Big East. Their energy, athleticism, and fight make the team confident that the ball will rarely hit the floor.”

The Wildcats are undeniably loaded with a wealth of talent, but it’s a matter of putting the pieces together successfully. The final home matches against Providence and St. John’s this weekend are the last chances to perfect play in a competitive setting.

Regardless of the results, ‘Nova is guaranteed a ticket to the Big East tournament Thanksgiving weekend. The team will likely face Xavier in the first round of play, and it will look to win the tie-breaking match after splitting victories during the regular season. 

The Wildcats have traded wins and losses with each of the teams earning tournament berths—Marquette, Xavier and Creighton. 

Post-season success will ultimately come down to how ‘Nova puts together the pieces in these last two weeks.