Volleyball captures Villanova Classic Championship



Katie Ho Sang

After falling short last year, the women’s volleyball team captured the Villanova Classic Title this year. The Wildcats were led by outside hitter Claire Crutchfield and center blocker Allie Loitz, who received tournament MVP and all-tournament team honors, respectively. 

The Wildcats battled the reigning NCAA national champions, Penn State, two weeks ago, falling short, 0-3, but challenging their opponents in a close, 25-23, set. This gave the team the confidence to defeat James Madison, the No. 1 seed, in its final match.

The Wildcats defeated Siena, 25-17, 32-30, 25-22, in their first match of the tournament. The team stayed controlled the game the majority of the match with forceful offensive plays. 

Loitz led the team with 10 kills, while Crutchfield and freshman Amanda Pedersen-Henry both tallied nine. The back row of Allison Fitzgerald and Michelle Adams played solid defense, adding 17 and 16 digs, respectively. Senior setter Emma Pettit added five aces and 44 assists to secure the win.

The team earned another straight set victory to advance to the final round when they defeated Howard, 25-15, 27-25, 25-18. 

Loitz played exceptionally well in the first set, as she tallied seven of her 15 kills. Crutchfield and Brittany Rembert added 10 and nine kills, respectively, adding to the powerful Villanova offense. Fitzgerald led the team with 11 digs, while Loitz contributed 10.

The Wildcats fought hard to overcome JMU in a 3-1 victory. ’Nova was in control of the first two sets, which it captured 25-20 and 25-22. Momentum shifted towards the Dukes, as they secured the third set, 25-20. 

The Wildcats trailed during the fourth set, and were at one point behind by six points. Fitzgerald aced the Dukes to tie the set, and the teams went back and forth for the reminder of the set. The Wildcats defended multiple set points, as the Dukes played tight defense on multiple match points. Loitz registered a down-the-line kill to capture the tournament title and end the final set, 31-29. 

During key points, setters frequently passed to Crutchfield, the tournament MVP. Crutchfield, a powerful outside hitter who stands 6-1, has a knack for putting balls away. Her hits are powerful enough to leave bruises and cause concussions, opponents have learned. 

This year’s team dynamic is exceptionally strong, as fresh faces have been added to the team and upperclassmen are returning in full health.     

Loitz is a southern California native who transferred from Pepperdine University this year. This 6-3 outside hitter is making an immediate impact on the team. 

Pedersen-Henry is another offensive newcomer who is making a splash.  The freshman middle blocker earned a key rotating position on the squad. 

Fitzgerald, who played libero all three games last weekend, returns after suffering a knee injury that sidelined her for the majority of last season.

The most impactful returner on the team is senior Gabby Pethokoukis, who missed last year’s season as she battled cancer. 

“She fought so hard off the court, the least we can do to play as hard as possible for her,” Crutchfield said. Pethokoukis tallied 19 kills last weekend as an essential front line contributor. 

The Wildcats’ conference season begins in two weeks, where they will look to capture the Big East Title. The team is confident now that they are at full force. 

“We were seeded seventh in the Big East during pre-season, but if last weekend is any indicator of how we will play all season, “ Crutchfield said.  “There’s no doubt in my mind that we can take the Big East Championship and qualify for the NCAA national tournament,” 

The Wildcats travel to Washington D.C. to face Georgetown on the Sept. 25.