Two Wins in Three to Open Volleyball Season


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

The Wildcats celebrate on Friday in front of a packed Finneran Pavilion.

Zac Tipton, Staff Writer

Villanova volleyball opened its season by winning two of three games this weekend, defeating Rider and Delaware but falling to 21st-ranked Stanford.

It began against Stanford. Hundreds packed the Finneran Pavilion, and the crowd was roaring the whole night, even as the Wildcats lost in straight sets, 3-0. Villanova fell behind early in the first, losing 25-14, then put up a good fight in the second, losing 25-20. The final set really showed how good this team could be, as it held the lead almost the entire set before giving it up right at the end in a thrilling 27-25 loss. 

Villanova then had a short rest before playing Rider on Saturday morning, back in its traditional home at the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. The team dominated the first two sets, winning each 25-18, before dropping the third, 26-24. The Wildcats finished off the Broncs in the fourth set, winning 25-23. 

In the night game, Villanova took down Delaware in straight sets, bringing its record to 2-1. Villanova won the first set 25-13, the second 25-20 and finished with another 25-13 win in the third and final set. 

Stanford came into Villanova ranked 21st in the country, kicking off a season in which it hopes to be a national title contender. The team looked every part of one in the early going, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and never looking back. Villanova made several mental mistakes in the first set, struggling with a raucous atmosphere and a nationally ranked opponent. 

Stanford took the first set, 25-14, but senior outside hitter Clare Delaplane led the Wildcats with five kills in the set. Villanova bounced back in the second set taking a 4-2 lead, but Stanford came back to take a 6-5 lead. Stanford again started quickly, and while Villanova hung around thanks to fantastic kills by sophomore middle blocker Kiera Booth, Stanford never wavered and won the set, 25-20. However, the third set was Villanova’s time. After trailing 5-1, Villanova came back to tie it at 10, then grabbed the lead from the Cardinal. The Wildcats held that lead for nearly the rest of the set, before Stanford turned up the intensity. Errors by the Wildcats and impressive spikes by the Cardinal caused Stanford to catapult ahead for the win at 27-25. 

On Saturday morning, Villanova walked back into Jake Nevin to face Rider, not wanting to fall to 0-2 on the season. Villanova and Rider played close in the first set, but a six-point run for the Wildcats jumped them out in front and gave them an 18-12 lead behind six kills from sophomore outside hitter Riley Homer and 12 assists from junior setter Belle Morgan. The second set was similar, as Villanova jumped out to an early 9-5 lead, carrying the lead through the set to win 25-18 again. Two kills each from Delaplane and Homer secured the set win for the ‘Cats.

In the third set, Villanova fell behind early before coming back and taking a 20-19 lead thanks to big plays by Homer, Booth and freshman outside hitter Rose Crist. One point away from sweeping the Broncs, Rider came back to win three consecutive points to stay alive, winning the set 26-24. However, Villanova finished it off in the fourth set, winning 25-23 in a back-and-forth battle behind eight kills from Delaplane. 

On Saturday night, the ‘Cats finished off their final game of a busy weekend against rival Delaware. Villanova came out swinging, winning the first set handily, 25-13, behind five kills from Homer. In a crazy second set, Delaware kept it close until the end, before Villanova was able to finally break away and win, 25-20. Graduate libero Averi Salvador had four digs, and Booth and Homer had six kills between them. The final set was all Villanova again, as the Wildcats had a combined .333 hitting percentage en route to a 25-13 set win for the sweep, improving to 2-1 on the season.

Villanova will have the week off before traveling to Phoenix for the Grand Canyon Invitational. The Wildcats will face Rider (0-3) again on Friday, Western Carolina (0-2) on Saturday, and Grand Canyon (3-0) on Sunday.