On Saturday, Sept. 18, Georgetown volleyball dropped a heartbreaking match against the Bellarmine Knights in its last game at the University of Virginia’s annual Jefferson Cup in Charlottesville, Va. This game was the Hoyas’ third in two days, following losses to Fairleigh Dickinson 3-2 and the University of Virginia 3-0 on Friday. These matches were the last of nonconference play for Georgetown before Big East conference play begins this week.
The Hoyas (4-7) went down early to the Knights (4-7) by a score of 7-1 in the first set. Despite the initial shock, Georgetown quickly recovered offensively behind the outstanding play of first-year outside hitter Mary Grace Goyena. Goyena recorded six of her team-high 23 kills in the first set to keep the Hoyas afloat. After narrowing the Bellarmine lead down to 8-7, the Hoyas and the Knights went back and forth for the remainder of the first set. Neither team was able to open up more than a three-point lead. Ultimately, the Hoyas were able to string together a 3-0 run down the stretch, winning the first set 25-23.
Georgetown came out hot in the second set, opening an early 5-2 lead. Bellarmine fought back and held a 17-13 lead midway through the set. Just when it looked like the Knights were going to run away with the set, the Hoyas went on a 4-0 run to take a 22-20 lead. Although Bellarmine fought off two straight set points, a combination block by junior right side Peyton Wilhite and sophomore middle blocker Chanelle Smith gave Georgetown a final 26-24 lead and the second set victory.
Up two sets after consecutive narrow victories to open the contest, it seemed like Georgetown had all the momentum necessary to win the match. But four Hoya attack errors and one service error propelled the Knights to a 7-0 run early in the third set. The impressive play of first-year setter Lilly Costigan helped Georgetown keep the rest of the set close, making up for the initially sloppy play. Costigan served as the Hoyas’ floor general, dishing out 12 of her game-high 53 assists in the third set. At one point Costigan assisted on five Hoya points in a row. In spite of Costigan’s performance, Bellarmine ultimately took advantage and won the third set 25-23.
With Georgetown leading two sets to one, the fourth set proved to be a true back-and-forth affair. Neither team could create more than a three-point lead before the Hoyas went up 22-18. With victory in sight, Georgetown repeated its sloppy play from the third set. Three attack errors and a service error fueled a 7-1 Bellarmine run down the stretch, giving the Knights a 25-23 victory.
Both teams were exhausted after four exhilarating sets, and Bellarmine utilized its momentum to win the fifth set to 15. The Knights went up 6-1 early and Georgetown never recovered, ultimately losing 15-7 and bringing an end to a rollercoaster match.
Despite going 0-3 at the Jefferson Cup, one bright spot for the Hoyas was senior libero Jessica Cusi. Cusi was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 4.92 digs per set across the three matches.
Georgetown Head Coach David Heller said he viewed the three Jefferson Cup matches as a positive learning experience for a Hoya squad that is playing for the first time in nearly two years.
“Taking a year and a half off has had its challenges in regards to training time,” Heller said in an email to The Hoya. “I think that we had some great success in teaching moments for our younger players and allowed our seniors to display leadership at those times too.”
The Hoyas will now open conference play hoping to find success against Big East rivals. Georgetown opens conference play at home against DePaul (7-5) on Friday at 5 p.m. EDT and Marquette (9-2) on Saturday at 4 p.m. EDT. Both matches will be played at home at McDonough Arena.