Before yesterday, the all-time series between Penn and Villanova in volleyball stood at 12 wins to 10, in the Wildcats' favor. Refusing to bow to history, the Quakers defeated Villanova yesterday to narrow the gap between the squads -- and, more importantly, it wasn't even close. Penn (14-6) defeated Villanova (7-13) in straight games last night at the Palestra, 15-6, 15-4, and 15-7. This victory avenged last year's loss to the Wildcats in straight games. Villanova started the match with intensity, building a 3-0 lead in less than one minute. However, Penn bounced back on the strength of junior setter Jodie Antypas' selective use of the setter attack on the second touch. After Penn went up 5-4, it never relinquished the lead again. The Quakers took the first game running away, 15-6. Penn relied on a dominating presence at the net to roll over Villanova. The middle blockers for the Red and Blue, junior Kelly Szczerba and freshman Heather Janssen, were a problem all night for the Wildcats hitters. The two combined for 10 block assists, far surpassing Villanova's team total of four blocks. Penn's floor defense was also spectacular, led by Antypas' 12 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Kai Gonsorowski and junior outside hitter Stephanie Horan also added nine digs each. In the second game, a Janssen swing attack from the weak side knocked Villanova sophomore Leah Matthews off her feet and sent the ball sailing into the stands. This was the type of play that characterized the second game, which Penn took easily, 15-4. Villanova's woes continued into the third game. The Wildcats' freshman setter Jennifer Edwards had problems all night finding her hitters, largely due to the fact that the team's back row players rarely gave her a decent pass. When Villanova's hitters managed to get some workable sets, Szczerba, Janssen and sophomore outside hitter Stacey Carter would shut them down at the net. Villanova got as close as 8-6 in third game. In an attempt to fix the team's defensive problems, Villanova coach Heather Hoehn substituted freshman outside hitter Kate Tucker for freshman defensive specialist Amanda Guralski. This action was to no avail, as Tucker would go on to shank four balls, including two Gonsorowski service aces. Penn eventually took the third game, 15-7, and the match. Despite leading most of the match, Penn maintained its level of intensity. "We came out and we didn't let up, even when we were ahead," Horan said. "We just pushed through the end, and I think that was a big part of us finishing the game." Penn's serving seemed to be more effective than usual last night. The team combined for nine service aces, including four by freshman setter Meghan Schloat. "I think we just kept it tough," freshman outside hitter Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan said. "If we just keep serving it hard and in, it takes them out of their offense." Another key to Penn's success was its continual reliance on a variety of players. In last night's match, no Penn player gathered more than eight kills, but five of Penn's six starters obtained at least six. "We don't rely on just one hitter," Penn coach Kerry Major said. "No one person is on the top 10 kill list, top 10 percentage list, because we spread out our offense so much." Major continued to stress the importance of the mental game. "I definitely think Villanova was off of their mental game tonight," Major said. "I don't think we played the best we could, but then again, if you're playing a team that is off so much it is hard to get psyched up." Kwak-Hefferan, who leads the Red and Blue in kills (158) and digs (240) this season, expressed a sentiment similar to Major's. "I don't think it was our top performance ever, but we played pretty strong and we didn't play down to the other team," Kwak-Hefferan said. "We kinda kept it at our own consistent level." One of Villanova's lone bright spots was senior middle hitter Tina Zitterich. She led all players in kills (10) and solo blocks (three). However, in getting those 10 kills, she also had seven errors and 34 attempts, resulting in a hitting percentage of .088. Villanova as a team hit a dismal .008 for the match, having almost as many errors as kills.Comments powered by Disqus
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