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Volleyball breaks through against DePaul
On Sunday Oct. 21 the Georgetown women’s volleyball team (7-15, 1-8 Big East) was able to heave a huge sigh of relief, as it finally ending a 14-game losing streak, beating DePaul (7-15, 2-7) in straight sets (27-25, 25-20, 25-17). It was a huge win for the Hoyas; the victory was the first against a conference opponent so far this season as well as the team’s first win at home.
“They should just be really proud of themselves,” said Head Coach Arlisa Williams of her team. “We scored a lot of points and played really low-error volleyball, and that’s what we needed to do.”
The first set was the closest. The Blue Devils kept the score neck-and-neck throughout, forcing a tied score at 25, but sound passing and a stellar kill from sophomore middle blocker Dani White allowed the Hoyas to edge out their opponent 27-25.
From there, the team’s confidence grew. A string of serving aces from several players and consistent hitting from sophomore outside hitter Alex Johnson—who was back in top form after a series of disappointing offensive performances against Notre Dame, Pitt, and Villanova—allowed the Hoyas to build and maintain a steady lead during the second set. In the end, the Hoyas took the set 25-20, their first back-to-back set win since the team’s bout with College of Charleston in early September.
By the third set the Hoyas were on fire. Junior setter Haley Lowrance was able to assist kills from every front row player in what was perhaps her strongest and most unpredictable setting performance to date. In quite the role reversal, Georgetown was the team dominating this time, ending the match with a 25-17 win.
Offensively, the Hoyas fired on all cylinders. RS sophomore outside hitter Elizabeth Riggins and RS junior opposite Annalee Abell both had nine kills, in addition to White’s 11 and Johnson’s game-high 12. What gets lost in box score’s kill counts, however, is the passing that got them there.
The Hoyas’ passing was better than ever against DePaul. The team’s primary passer, sophomore libero MacKenzie Simpson had her best match of the season, digging a total of 24 balls in just three sets. Over the season she’s averaged just above four digs a game; against DePaul she averaged eight. Of her teammate and fellow digger, freshman defensive specialist Emily Gisolfi had only the highest praise. “MacKenzie is great. She’s always solid, she’s always steady, and she’s a great libero,” Gisolfi said.
Gisolfi, who had 11 digs of her own on the day, also credited RS junior Whitney Jencks for the team’s improved passing game. “Whitney has great leadership on the court and she just brings confidence to all the other passers,” said Gisolfi. Though not shown in the dig tallies (she had just four on the Blue Devils), Jencks’s passing is getting more controlled and she is passing more nails than she has previously this season.
“Personally I’ve struggled a little bit this season,” said Jencks, “but over the past couple of games myself and the team as a whole have really stepped it up.”
In another boost to the Hoyas’ defense, freshman outside hitter Lauren Saar returned to the court this weekend after being out with an injury since Sept. 15. Though playing exclusively from the back row, Saar managed 7 digs, impressive considering her limited court time and inevitable rust. “Lauren Saar makes a big difference in the back row for us. I don’t think that any of us fully realized how much we’ve missed her these last five weeks,” said Coach Williams.
Saar was just happy to be back. “It felt great. I love getting back into it,” Saar said. “It’s been a bummer being out, but just being with my team and being able to get into practices and finally playing is just an awesome feeling, and we got the win as a plus. It’s just awesome.”
With an end to the cursed losing streak and a spring in their step, Georgetown volleyball now turns its attention to arguably its toughest match thus far Friday at home against Marquette (18-4, 8-1 Big East).
“I am so energized, we needed this bad,” Gisolfi said. “Even though we were losing, we’ve always been fighting every game. We come into practice and we’re working hard every time to get better. We’ve never given up, so this was good for us, and we’re going to take this and use our energy and bring it to Marquette.”
Going into a match against the Golden Eagles at 8 p.m. in McDonough Arena, Coach Williams emphasized the importance of taking a deep breath and moving forward. “We just got to take the confidence we have after this, one day, one point, one practice at a time. That’s all we can do.”