For the first time since 2010, the Georgetown volleyball team (6-9, 0-2 Big East) played its first conference match of the season in the comforts of its own McDonough Arena. However, a home-court advantage was not enough to pull the Hoyas to a victory as Georgetown fell to Villanova (11-4, 1-1 Big East) Friday and was defeated again Sunday by Seton Hall (7-7, 1-1 Big East).
The loss to Villanova marked the eighth straight year that the Hoyas dropped their first conference match of the season.
Though both matches went down as losses, the Hoyas’ performances against their two opponents differed wildly. In the conference home opener against Villanova, the Wildcats dominated for long stretches on the way to a victory in straight sets, whereas in Sunday’s match against Seton Hall, the Hoyas pushed the Pirates to five sets in a tightly fought contest.
Head Coach Arlisa Williams attributed the team’s effort against Villanova to the difference in the team’s preparation for this match as opposed to previous matches. Prior to their match against the Wildcats, the Hoyas had played 12 of its 13 matches on the road.
“I think one of our biggest challenges is learning a routine that’s going to allow us to be effective. We have been on the road a whole lot,” Williams said. “Today, we have players on campus for the first time. … It’s just a whole different routine. Getting mentally prepared is a new experience for them and I think that was the biggest challenge today.”
Georgetown struggled from the outset as freshman outside hitters Liv King and Alyssa Sinnette, two of Georgetown’s most prolific and effective hitters this season, put up 21 and 33 kill attempts, respectively, but struggled with efficiency against Villanova’s block.
As Georgetown’s offense scrambled, Villanova sophomore outside hitter Allie Loitz, the Wildcats’ leading offensive player this season, earned 12 kills on a .438 hitting percentage in addition to her match-high five service aces.
Georgetown dropped the first two sets in twin scores of 25-13 and never led by more than one point. The Hoyas turned the tide in the third set, earning a 10-6 advantage and forcing Villanova to call its first timeout of the match. In spite of the team’s effort out of the break, Georgetown could not sustain its momentum for the entirety of the set and fell to Villanova 25-20.
Facing a loss in her first Big East match, freshman middle blocker Symone Speech, who had five kills and earned a team-high four block assists, recognized that playing against a more experienced team like Villanova can be a opportunity for team growth.
“The outcome wasn’t exactly what I want it to be — Villanova’s a good team, lots of very experienced players, we’re all very young, so it’s just getting used to it,” Speech said. “I know it’s a process. It’s a long season so we just have to keep getting better; you learn from every game.”
While Georgetown struggled to find its offensive rhythm against Villanova, the team battled from the start to the finish in its loss against Seton Hall.
King led the Hoyas with a career-high 23 kills, while Sinnette and senior outside hitter Lauren Saar each chipped in with 12. Freshman setter Paige McKnight recorded a match-high 54 assists, while freshman libero Kenzie Higareda led the Hoyas with 18 digs.
The tone of the match was set from the first serve, as the Hoyas and Pirates traded points in a highly contested first set. Neither team was able to sustain a long run, but Seton Hall took the first set 25-23 on a kill from junior outside hitter Danielle Schroeder, who led the Pirates with 15 kills against the Hoyas in the match.
The second set mimicked the first with both squads vying for a lead before the game ended up tied at 25 points. The Hoyas grabbed their first set of the weekend 28-26 on a pair of Georgetown kills and a Villanova error.
With the Pirates taking the third set and the Hoyas taking the fourth set, the match was left to the fifth and final set. The Pirates sprinted out to a 13-6 lead and held on for a 15-7 victory.
While disappointed with the result, Williams emphasized the adjustments the team made between its lopsided effort against Villanova and its more cohesive performance against Seton Hall.
“They looked like a much more tight-knit unit on the floor,” Williams said.
King, whose 23 kills led all players on the floor, agreed that the team’s performance was much improved.
“It’s not just that I had a good game, but the team had a good game” King said.
Georgetown will return to action this weekend when it travels north to face Providence (9-7, 0-2 Big East) and St. John’s (11-6, 1-1 Big East).