The Blue Demons didn’t go down against Villanova Friday without a fight, losing 3-2 in a fifth set. The energy and drive to win was all there, but it wasn’t quite enough for the Blue Demons to stop the Wildcats.
It appeared to be a game that could have ended in a quick sweep for the Blue Demons, as they took the first two clean sets right away, 25-29 and 24-21, respectively.
“I think they brought the competition that they brought the last time, and we trained really hard this whole week to make adjustments and get after everything that worked for them against us and everything that worked for us against them,” senior Callie Huebner said. “Because we worked so hard on our adjustments, we stopped them and it made things very competitive.”
Whether it was an impressive season-best of 13 team blocks, or junior Colleen Smith’s 47 assists, only one short of reaching the top-five all-time DePaul career leaders, the team gave electrifying performances that caused Wildcats to scramble in search of lost communication on the court.
After a two-set win from the Blue Demons, it seemed that Villanova got the message to revitalize their game during their locker-room break.
“Like all teams, when you lose two games in a row, you come back with more energy. They made adjustments, and I think it was still very competitive and they just ended the game a little bit more than we did,” Huebner said.
Villanova had secret weapons of their own, with freshman Amanda Pedersen-Henry and sophomore Claire Crutchfield reaping kills left and right for the Big East team. Winning three straight sets after the Demons’ two-set advantage, they proved to be quite the battle for DePaul.
Senior Saige Gallop was seen hopping off the court while the Demons were up 11-8 in the fifth set after what looked to be a painful injury of a twisted ankle. Her status in the next game against Seton Hall is uncertain at the moment.
“I think what got better this time was our transition game and we’ve been working on that a lot, so the long rallies, we ended up winning,” Huebner said. “I think we just let them get on a couple too long of runs, if we would’ve shortened up the runs, I think we would’ve had that third game.”
“We’ve had so many five-set matches and to be close is not enough,” Coach Nadia Edwards said. “It’s not fulfilling for this group and the hard work that they’re putting in. So our lesson is at the end of games, we have to be able to have our composure, trust in our abilities and each other and compete.”
“I think our breakthrough is coming. Obviously when you have a good team like Villanova on the ropes, you want to be able to finish what you start,” Edwards said. “I think it was a hard fought match, but I think we had a lot of opportunities to put it away, and if any lesson we’ve got to take into tomorrow it’s that when you have a team on the ropes, you’ve got to finish.”