Villanova and Xavier went at it on Saturday night. The game went down to the wire and was a close contest throughout the night. The Wildcats eventually faltered at the hands of the Musketeers, losing three sets to two.
Xavier got off to a quick 3-0 lead over Villanova to begin the game. Eventually, Villanova got settled in and was able to catch right up to the Musketeers. Both teams kept it close and did not give the other much breathing room. It was a back-and-forth set that was foreshadowing of what was to come. It set the tone and the pace of the game early on.
Villanova got a little separation at the tail end of the first set. A kill by Lauren Carpenter gave the Wildcats a 24-22 lead. Claire Crutchfield then entered the game. After giving up a point to Sofia Peterson and the Xavier Musketeers, Crutchfield came scored the set-winning point. Emma Pettit assisted her on the last point to take the first set.
The second set yielded a different result for Villanova. This time around, the Wildcats grabbed an early lead in the set. The Musketeers returned the favor by battling right back and tying it up midway through the set. Just as the first set did, the game went back and forth. There were ten ties in the second frame alone. With the game knotted up at 19, the Musketeers went on a 6-1 run that was capped off with a kill by Sofia Peterson to even it up at one set apiece.
Xavier followed up with a strong performance late in the set. The Wildcats and Musketeers traded the lead many times, just like the sets before. Allie Loitz tied the game at 17 for Villanova. Xavier’s Brooke Betts answered with the point to spark an 8-3 run. The Musketeers had a cushion at the end of the set, and were able to capture the pivotal third set. Once again, Sofia Peterson supplied the winning point.
The Wildcats would not go down easily. They trailed for most of the fourth set, but eventually broke through near the end of the set. The Musketeers lost their comfortable lead as Villanova came back to tie it down the stretch. An attack error by Xavier broke the 22-22 tie, giving Villanova the lead. Shortly after, Amanda Pedersen-Henry got a kill to put the Wildcats one point away from tying the game up. However, they would not put it away just yet. A service error by Villanova gave the Wildcats a 24-23 lead. On the ensuing series, Pedersen-Henry placed the finishing touches on a much needed game-tying set.
On the deciding fifth and final set, Villanova just could not find its footing. Xavier took the lead and never looked back. The Wildcats watched the gap between themselves and the Musketeers slowly grow as they got closer to victory. Meredith Klare assisted Abbey Bessler on the kill to make it match point. Xavier did not need to score the final point by itself, Villanova sealed its own demise with an attack error that give the Musketeers the final point it needed.
Allie Loitz had a team-high 15 kills for the Wildcats. Gabby Pethokoukis finished with 14 kills. Lauren Carpenter chipped in eight kills and 10 digs. Emma Pettit led the way with a game-high 46 assists.
For Xavier, its balanced attack paved the way to victory. Five different players had at least 10 kills on the night. Sofia Peterson had a game-high 16 kills. Kristen Massa added 12 kills. Lauren Frilling and Makayla Agin had 11 kills each. Abbey Bessler rounded off the team effort with 10 kills and 23 digs.
The Wildcats lose back-to-back games for the first time since earlier this year in September. They are now 8-6 on the road. Overall, they have a 21-7 record.
Villanova will return home for a game against Seton Hall on Saturday, November 14, at 7 p.m.