The Georgetown volleyball team (7-15, 1-8 Big East) has developed a depressingly familiar routine this season: After shaking hands with the opponent, the dejected players head off the court and straight to the locker room.
But Sunday, for the first time in 43 days, the Hoyas lingered on the court in an energized huddle celebrating their first Big East win of the season. The three-set sweep of DePaul (7-15, 2-7 Big East) — 27-25, 25-20, 25-17 — snapped a 14-game losing streak that had stretched back to the middle of non-conference play.
“It feels awesome [to win],” redshirt sophomore outside hitter Elizabeth Riggins said. “During the losing streak, I could tell that it was difficult not knowing whether we could win. Now we know we can win if we play hard.”
While the Blue and Gray broke through Sunday, the weekend did not begin so auspiciously. Georgetown could not handle Notre Dame (15-6, 8-1 Big East) Friday, losing in straight sets, 25-17, 25-12, 25-13.
The Fighting Irish, whose hitters boasted a clear height advantage over the Hoyas, found numerous holes in Georgetown’s defense with a combination of powerful spikes and crafty tips. Despite Notre Dame’s apparent superiority, Georgetown Head Coach Arlisa Williams blamed the loss on the Blue and Gray’s offensive ineptitude.
“We only earned six points in the second game and seven points in the third,” Williams said. “When you only earn 13 points in the two games, you make it difficult to win.”
While the Hoyas took a hard psychological blow Friday, they came out against the Blue Demons with a measure of resilience.
“We talked about defending our house because we hadn’t won at home yet this year,” Williams said. “We’ve just got to want it more, and we have to go out and fight harder. We talked about it after the Notre Dame match and in practice.”
Following Williams’ advice, Georgetown fought harder against DePaul, something that was clear during a pivotal sequence at the end of the first set. Before Sunday, the Hoyas had struggled to win close sets and capitalize on important points.
Tied, 22-22, with the Blue Demons in the first set, Georgetown dug deeper and sealed the game thanks to one of sophomore middle blocker Dani White’s trademark crosscourt spikes.
After seizing the momentum, the Blue and Gray was not threatened as it took control and held onto the lead in each of the final two sets thanks to a composed and balanced attack.
Sophomore outside hitter Alex Johnson led the Hoyas with 12 kills. White added 11 kills, and Riggins and redshirt junior right-side hitter Annalee Abell both recorded nine kills.
“The things we do in practice get us ready for matches,” Riggins said. “We need to make sure we put what the coaches say into action.”
In addition to improving their hitting, the Hoyas displayed their best passing performance so far in conference play, helped by strong performances from defensive stalwart sophomore libero MacKenzie Simpson and freshman defensive specialist Emily Gisolfi, who recorded 24 and 11 digs, respectively.
Junior setter Haley Lowrance put in a virtuoso performance in her own right, recording 42 assists, 10 digs and three kills.
“Good passing makes us harder to guard,” Williams said. “When we’re in system we can set all five of our hitters and make Haley an offensive threat.”
In a weekend full of positives, the Hoyas also welcomed back freshman outside hitter Lauren Saar from injury. Saar, who had not competed since Sept. 15, played a limited role as a defensive specialist in both matches, recording two and seven digs against the Irish and Blue Demons, respectively.
Although Saar does hope to eventually rejoin the front line, she excelled against DePaul in her limited role as the deepest defender in the back row, adding another dimension to Georgetown’s defense.
“It felt great because it’s been a bummer being out, but being back with my team and being able to get into practices and playing is an awesome feeling and to get a win is a plus,” Saar said. “I love playing defense, but hopefully I can make it back into the front row. [But I’ll do] whatever is best for the team.”
Because of the victory against DePaul and Saar’s return, Georgetown is brimming with confidence ahead of weekend matches against Marquette (18-4, 8-1 Big East) and Syracuse (9-15, 1-8 Big East). After spending so much of the season in a tailspin, the Georgetown players believe that improved hitting and passing can help them escape the Big East basement.
“I am so energized because we needed this win,” Gisolfi said. “We’ve been working hard, and even though we were losing, we’ve been fighting every game. We come into practice, and we’re working every time to get better. We’re going to take our energy and bring it against Marquette.”