Villanova played in its first NCAA Tournament game since 1997 late Friday afternoon. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, their season has come to an end.
Villanova and Dayton duked it out through four close sets, with the Flyers coming out on top.
Each set was decided by four or less points. Dayton won 21-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-23.
The pace of the game was set early, both teams were very evenly matched. It was foreshadowing of what was to come: an intense, close game with very little room for error.
The game went back and forth between both teams, featuring 11 ties in the first set alone. The Wildcats were able to get a little bit of separation from the Flyers towards the end of the opening set, using that to eventually take control and win it.
Emma Pettit assisted Claire Crutchfield on a kill to give the ‘Cats set point, and a Dayton attack error sealed the deal.
Dayton came out firing in the second set. After spotting a couple of points to Villanova, the Flyers were able to get ahead and take the lead. The Wildcats were able to come back, tying it up about midway through the set.
A kill by Pettit put the Wildcats in front and they managed the hold the lead for a while. The Flyers eventually caught up and tied the set at 23. Gabby Pethokoukis finished one to put the Wildcats one point away from taking a two set lead.
However, the Flyers had other plans. Three straight points allowed them to steal it away and tie the game at one.
The pivotal third set was back and forth between both teams. When one team was able get a lead, the other was right behind closing in.
Late in the set, a kill by Allie Loitz tied it up at 19. Dayton broke the tie and got out in front, and kept the pace until the end to take the third.
With their last chance to stay in the game, the Wildcats grabbed an early lead in the fourth set. Villanova took a quick 10-5 lead, but Dayton answered back with a 7-2 run to tie it up at 12.
From there, the Flyers looked like they were going to run away with the set. They were off to a comfortable lead, until the Wildcats inched back into the game to tie it up.
The game was back and forth, seeing six ties coming down the stretch. Eventually, Dayton’s Alaina Turner scored a point to give the Flyers match point. Jill Loiars came in shortly after to put in the finishing blow.
For Villanova, Loitz had a team-high 17 kills. Crutchfield and Amanda Pedersen-Henry had 12 kills each. Pettit tallied 42 assists, 10 digs, four blocks, and five kills.
Turner led the Flyers with a game-high 24 kills. Loiars finished with 16 kills. Jenna Jendryk chipped in 13 kills. Amber Erhanon added 11 kills and five blocks. Jane Emmenecker had 57 assists and 25 digs.
The Wildcats finish the season 25-9.