Volleyball Drops Two of Three at GCU Invitational

Middle+blocker+Kiera+Booth+sparked+a+brief+comeback+against+Western+Carolina.

Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Middle blocker Kiera Booth sparked a brief comeback against Western Carolina.

Zac Tipton, Staff Writer

Coming off a couple of wins at home, Villanova traveled to Phoenix for the Grand Canyon Invitational with a bit of momentum. The team continued that momentum in the first, cruising past Rider for the second time in three games, but stumbled the rest of the way, falling to both Western Carolina and Grand Canyon in straight sets to fall to 3-3 on the season.

Villanova started its furthest road trip of the year with a familiar face, facing a team it had played in Pennsylvania just last weekend. The Wildcats beat Rider again, this time in straight sets. Villanova took big leads in the first two sets thanks to big starts from senior outside hitter Clare Delaplane and sophomore middle blocker Maddie Barber, who had a combined five kills. Villanova never let up, and even though the last set was a back and forth affair, Villanova pulled away and was able to finish off the game, thanks to great kills from sophomore outside hitter Riley Homer, who led Villanova with 12 kills in the game. Junior setter Belle Morgan had 35 assists and graduate libero Averi Salvador had 17 digs. This win brought the ‘Cats’ record to 3-1, but the weekend was downhill from there.

Saturday, Villanova looked to continue its win streak against Western Carolina. Villanova started the first set close, before falling apart and allowing Western Carolina to have .306 hitting percentage in the first. The Catamounts cruised to a comfortable 25-17 win in the first set, and never looked back. Western Carolina continued their dominance in the second set, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and never wavering, winning the second set, 25-15. However, Homer had a team-high eight kills through the first two sets. The third set was a thriller, and while Western Carolina led 17-12, the Wildcats were able to bring it all the way back, thanks to three kills in a row from Kiera Booth. With the game score at 23-22, the Catamounts finished it off, winning the set 25-22, but the Wildcats had 18 kills in that set. Homer finished with 13 kills, Morgan finished with 22 assists, Salvador had 17 assists and Delaplane had 12 digs. Villanova’s record dropped to 3-2.

In the final match on Sunday. Villanova faced the ‘Lopes of Grand Canyon University. On GCU’s home court, Villanova was able to put a scare into the crowd by taking lead after lead and eventually owning a 24-21 advantage, one point away from an incredible set win thanks to eight kills from senior outside hitter Sanaä Barnes and Booth. However, GCU ended up winning the first set, 26-24. The second set was GCU’s all the way, with the team going on a 6-0 run early and running away with the second set, 25-12. The final set, just like last weekend’s Stanford game, was a back and forth battle, with Villanova, thanks to kills from Homer, taking a 21-20 lead. But errors cost Villanova, and GCU won the last set, 25-23. Homer had 10 kills, Morgan had 34 assists and Salvador had 12 digs. This was Villanova’s third three set loss this season, dropping the Wildcats to an even 3-3 record. 

Villanova now looks to bounce back next weekend at the Northeastern tournament in Boston, facing 2-4 Northeastern on Friday. They will then face the 3-2 Bryant Bulldogs Saturday afternoon, finishing with 1-2 Harvard Saturday night.