The Georgetown volleyball team (6-14, 0-7 Big East_ thought a two-game road trip to Pittsburgh (12-10, 3-5 Big East) and South Florida (12-9, 4-4 Big East) this weekend would present an opportunity to notch its first Big East win. Instead, positive expectations became disappointment as the Hoyas lost both matches despite making their fight with the Bulls a five-set thriller.
The Blue and Gray began the trip with a four-set loss to the Panthers on Friday. Breaking from its pattern this season, Georgetown began the match in forceful fashion by winning the first set, 25-20. Head Coach Arlisa Williams attributed the quick start to better practices in the days leading up to the match.
“This week, we tried to define the details we needed to improve on and made sure we hit our spot every time on base defense and dropped our hand six inches on the angle,” Williams said. “Focusing on the details makes all the difference.”
Although Georgetown began well, Pittsburgh began to wrest momentum away after the first set to assume control of the match. The Hoyas turned in a listless performance from there, losing the second set, 20-25, and then dropping the next two, 18-25 and 20-25, respectively.
However, Georgetown could take heart in several solid individual performances, as senior middle blocker Lindsay Wise hit .400 to set the tone for an outstanding weekend and sophomore libero MacKenzie Simpson recorded 22 digs over the two games.
That included Sunday’s game, where Georgetown put on a spirited display at South Florida despite being mired in a losing streak that now stretches to 13 games. Its strong effort against USF ultimately fell short, however, as it fell in five wild, back-and-forth sets.
The Hoyas allowed the Bulls to establish and maintain a comfortable lead in the first set, losing 15-25. In one of many large momentum swings, however, the Blue and Gray roared to a 5-1 lead in the second frame. Georgetown was never challenged in the set, as the team hit an outstanding .316 and went on to win, 25-17.
“[USF’s] gym is loud and energetic, and we had to get used to that in the first set. They came out excited to be home and excited to play,” Williams said. “In the second set, we decided to step up our game, serving tougher and passing better. We had a great set, and we did some great things as a team.
But, as has been the case so many times this season, Georgetown could not sustain this excellent play. South Florida, led by junior outside hitter Kayla Walton and sophomore outside hitter Valerie El Houssine, took control and dominated en route to a 25-13 win in the third set.
Once again, Georgetown bounced back, pulling away in the latter stages of the fourth set to take it, 25-18. Williams cited the set as a special moment for a team which had lost four consecutive matches in four sets before Sunday.
“In the third set, [USF] fought back like every team always does, and we couldn’t sustain our momentum,” Williams said. “I’m super proud of the team for this weekend, though, because in the fourth set, we said, ‘You know what, we’re not backing down,’ and we kept on fighting and fighting until we won.”
Williams was effusive in her praise of Wise, who recorded five kills on five attempts in the fourth set alone and finished the match with 10 total on the day.
“We have talked to [Wise] about details like getting to the net a half-second faster in transition,” Williams said. “She’s worked her butt off, and now she’s reaping the rewards.”
In the decisive fifth period, the Hoyas could not hang with the Bulls, who won the final four points to close out the match. Williams cited minor errors that shifted momentum as the main reason for the 10-15 loss.
In defeat, Georgetown was helped by strong statistical performances from many of its standout players. Sophomore outside hitter Alex Johnson recorded a double-double with 16 kills and 14 digs, sophomore middle blocker Dani White contributed 15 kills and junior setter Haley Lowrance added a game-high 43 assists.
The Hoyas will now have to look to a four-game homestand to record their first Big East victory. Despite all the setbacks, Williams still believes that a win is around the corner.
“As difficult as it is to lose again, we’re playing better volleyball,” Williams said. “We can see wins coming. I don’t know when they’re going to come, but we just keep focusing on areas where we’re deficient. We tell the team that we need to believe in ourselves, believe in each other and trust each other. We can beat anybody on any given day.”
The Hoyas will play host to Notre Dame Friday at 8 p.m. in McDonough Arena.