Villanova had its final home weekend of the season as it faced Providence and 21st ranked Creighton.
Head coach Josh Steinbach knew that a lot of things would have to go right to make the postseason, as the Wildcats needed to win both games, as well as twice on the final weekend in order to qualify.
“You can’t win four matches at once,” Steinbach said. “You can only win them one at a time. We got Providence on Friday night. We just gotta win that match.”
Villanova was able to take down Providence in four sets, 23-25, 25-21, 25-16 and 25-16. However, the ‘Cats could not upset Creighton, losing in straight sets, 11-25, 15-25 and 18-25. The loss to Creighton eliminated ‘Nova from Big East Tournament contention, as only the top four teams in the Big East make it to the postseason.
Villanova entered Friday having lost to Providence in straight sets the last time the two teams played, and losers of three straight against the Friars. Providence started off strong, taking a 6-1 lead before Villanova brought it back to 12-10. Villanova went on a 6-0 run thanks to three attack errors from Providence to take a 16-12 lead. After that, it was one run after the other. Providence went on a 7-1 run, then Villanova went on a 5-2 run, before Providence finished it with a 4-1 run stretch to win, 25-23.
Shaliyah Rhoden led Providence with six of its 14 kills, while sophomore middle blocker Madeline Barber had three of Villanova’s 10.
Villanova began to find its groove in the second. Senior right side hitter Sanaa Barnes had a pair of kills to give Villanova an 8-3 lead. Despite a Providence 5-0 run, Villanova was able to keep the lead thanks to a 7-1 run and back-to-back aces from Taryn Whittingham. With a 21-17 lead, senior outside hitter Clare Delaplane, sophomore setter Andrea Campos and sophomore outside hitter Kiera Booth each had kills of their own to win the set, 25-21.
The third set was a massive turnaround for the Wildcats. Despite being down 8-2 and 13-7, Villanova was able to go on a 9-1 run with kills from Homer, Delaplane, Barnes and Barber. Villanova held a 16-14 lead and traded points with Providence to bring the score to 19-16. From then on, Booth took control. With three kills in a 6-0 run, Booth led Villanova to win the set, 25-16.
Booth led the Cats with four kills in that set, while Jennifer Leitman of Providence had six of the Friars’ 12 kills.
The fourth set was all Villanova. Starting off on a 7-1 run, Villanova never gave the lead back, and neither team went on any major runs en route to a Villanova 25-16 set win, giving a 3-1 win to the Wildcats.
Barnes led Villanova with 12 kills, while Campos led with 33 assists. Leitman had 14 kills to lead the Friars.
Villanova improved to 15-12, while the Friars fell to 15-13.
Saturday night was Senior Night for the Wildcats, as six seniors were honored before the game.
“The best part of Senior Night is you get to play another match at home,” Steinbach said. “Playing in Jake Nevin has been special for our six graduating kids.”
Graduate libero Averi Salvador and seniors Anna Morse, Barnes, Olivia Brown, Emily Curtis and Delaplane started the match for ‘Nova versus the 21st-ranked team in the country.
Villanova was never able to gain any ground on Creighton throughout the first set, with the first point being the only lead Villanova held. The ‘Cats got down early and never were able to recover, putting up a measly 11 points to lose the first set, 25-11.
Homer had three kills for Villanova, while Creighton had 18 total kills to Nova’s six, with an incredible hitting percentage of .516.
The second set was a lot closer, with four lead changes. With the set tied at 12, Creighton went on a 7-3 run to take a 19-15 lead, before scoring six straight points with three kills from Kiana Schmitt to win the second, 25-15.
The third set was even more competitive than the third, with nine lead changes. Villanova was able to take a late lead, 15-14, thanks to a kill from Homer. However, Creighton would score seven of the next eight points to take a 21-16 lead, before finishing ‘Nova off 25-18 in the third.
No player from Villanova had more than six kills, which led to a .108 hitting percentage. Creighton had five players over six kills and a .426 hitting percentage.
Villanova fell to 15-13 and out of playoff contention, while Creighton moved to 26-3 and is gunning for a NCAA Tournament bid. The Bluejays have won nine in a row, but they are currently tied with Marquette atop the Big East standings with identical 14-2 conference records.
The Wildcats are currently in sixth place in the conference with a 7-9 record, needing two wins next weekend to finish with a .500 conference record.
Villanova ends its season next week on the road versus DePaul (17-11) in Chicago on Friday and Marquette (23-4) in Milwaukee on Saturday. Marquette has clinched a Big East tourney berth, while DePaul can clinch with a win over the ‘Cats Friday.