Coming off a solid performance in the Trojan Invitational that was soured by an uneven defeat to the host University of Southern California, the Wildcats completed an ideal weekend to wrap up their non-conference schedule in the Villanova Classic. Paced by junior outside hitter Mallory Potts’s 25 kills and anchored by senior libero Regan Lough’s 44 digs over two matches, the Wildcats dispatched Temple University(25-14, 21-25, 25-15, 25-18) and the University of Delaware(25-17, 25-13, 25-10) with ease.
Against an Owls team that the Wildcats outhit by a wide margin in three of the four sets Thursday night – overall, the ‘Cats led the Owls in hitting % a resounding .310 to .166 – Wildcats head coach Josh Steinbach preached that the Wildcats’ quality of play is what saw them through the match.
“They played clean in the second set,” Steinbach said, “but at the end of the day we’re the better team and that showed.”
He also credited his team’s defensive abilities, which resulted in racking up an impressive 9 blocks in four sets. “We blocked really well,” Steinbach said. “Almost 10 blocks is really good for us.”
Sophomore outside hitter Clare Delaplane, who led the team in kills on Friday with 15, also credited the ‘Cats offensive efforts for their smooth victory.
“We passed pretty well tonight,” she said. “[Senior setter Emma Decker] set the ball really well, that really helped us.”
Against the Blue Hens on Saturday evening, the ‘Cats earned an early departure from Jake Nevin Fieldhouse in a match that started out badly for the visitors and only got worse from there. By more than doubling the points scored by the Blue Hens in the match (57-26) while outpacing them by an even greater margin in aces (9-2) and blocks (6-1), the Wildcats demoralized the Blue Hens while at the same time firing up a second consecutive loud and raucous crowd. One stat that truly hammers this reality home is that of the visitors’ hitting %. After holding the Blue Hens to a measly .162 mark in the first set, Steinbach’s team incredibly lowered that number to 0 in the second set (by an equal number of errors and kills) before forcing that ratio into the negatives in the third set.
Decker – who in addition to pacing the Wildcats’ offense with her metronomic setting also led the team in aces in each match with three apiece – believes the animated crowds that came out to watch both matches make a tangible difference both in her service game and in the team’s performance. “I think it makes the biggest difference,” Decker said. “When the crowd comes out loud, I think we feed off that.”
The Wildcats begin Big East play on the road this Friday, travelling to Omaha to challenge the #15 Creighton University. The Wildcats’ effort to end a streak of four straight defeats to the Bluejays begins at 7 p.m. and will be available to watch on the Big East Digital Network.