Volleyball splits midwest roadtrip against Big East foes



Claire Ferry

The volleyball team faced a high level of competition on their road trip to the Midwest last weekend. It split the two matches, notching a five-game comeback against DePaul but dropping its match against Marquette.

Beginning the trip in Chicago on Friday night, ‘Nova proved its resilience after losing the first two sets to DePaul. The team fought its way back by claiming the next three games with close scores (19-25, 21-25, 25-22, 27-25, 15-13).  

The first two games stayed close in the beginning with 11 and 14 ties, respectively. In both instances, though, DePaul went on five-point runs to create separation and secured the lead comfortably.

After the intermission, however, the Wildcats didn’t waste time staging their comeback. A string of six unanswered points helped secure the third game. The next set was won by a slim margin of two points, forcing a tiebreaker. The final set looked bleak as DePaul got out to an 11-8 lead, but ‘Nova rallied off five straight points overtake the Blue Demons. This win extended the team’s win streak to eight straight matches.  

Sophomore outside hitter Allie Loitz posted a double-double with 17 kills and 14 digs. Double digit kills from Claire Crutchfield, Gabby Pethokoukis and Amanda Pederson-Henry provided ‘Nova with a balanced offense that kept DePaul guessing. Smart ball distribution by senior setter Emma Pettit earned her a season-high of 58 assists.

Coach Josh Steinbach commented after the game, “A team’s belief in their ability to make a tough comeback on the road isn’t nearly as strong until they have done it.” With this memorable win secured, the Wildcats will have a great deal more confidence in similar situations going forward.

Following the emotional win at DePaul, the team traveled to Milwaukee on Saturday to face Marquette. The team swept the Golden Eagles in their previous meeting this season, but it fell in four sets by margins of 25-15, 24-26, 25-22 and 25-15. 

Marquette took a commanding lead in the first set by rattling off 11 points. The Wildcats kept the tally close in the second, capitalizing on a Loitz kill and a Marquette hitting error to even the set count. Though the score remained close throughout most of the third game, the Golden Eagles snapped ‘Nova’s win streak with a commanding fourth set victory.

In the team’s first loss since late September, Pettit orchestrated the offense by dishing out 44 assists. Pederson-Henry contributed 14 kills, while Loitz and Pethokoukis each tallied ten. The Wildcats’ defensive front was led by Michelle Adams and Allie Fitzgerald, each amassing 16 digs.

Commending Marquette’s physical talent, Steinbach recognized, “After we beat them here, we knew it was going to be a big challenge at their place.” The loss drops the team’s record to 9-2 in the Big East conference, but they remain in second place behind Creighton.

The team returns to action this Friday in a rematch against Creighton at Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. In a clash of the top ranked conference teams, it hopes to avenge the four set loss it suffered to the Blue Jays on the road nearly a month ago.  

Steinbach acknowledges “The Creighton match is big for us because they are where we want to be—at the top.” 

The Wildcats will have to address Creighton’s high-tempo offense and the threat of Jaali Winters—the freshman outside posted 23 kills in their last meeting.  

A strong defensive front, beginning with the block, will be crucial in the rematch. ‘Nova stayed very competitive in the first two sets largely by keeping the Bluejays to a .160 hitting percentage. However, Creighton out-dug the Wildcats 73 to 58 on the final stat sheet. Defensive efforts from Fitzgerald, Adams and the other defensive specialists will play a large role in the outcome.

While the Creighton rematch is undoubtedly on the mind of Steinbach and the team, he maintains perspective of the big picture. He reminds his team they  “still have 6 more matches after Friday. Each match counts as just one win or loss.” 

Much attention will be offered to the Creighton match, but the team will be just as prepared for Georgetown on Saturday. Regardless of the opponent, it is clear that the Wildcats are poised to make a statement in the Big East.