On Friday, the Georgetown volleyball team (2-6, 0-2 Big East) lost a hard-fought match against the Butler Bulldogs (8-9, 2-2 Big East) in four sets (3-1: 25-19, 23-25, 23-25, 28-30) in which defense reigned supreme. Despite the unfortunate loss, Georgetown’s perseverance provided reason for optimism as errors stifled an otherwise impressive game.
Coming off a tough loss to Depaul, the Hoyas came out aggressive with both their attacks and serves in a successful attempt to pin the Bulldogs early. From the jump the Hoyas had an unparalleled intensity. It was visible through their fast-paced attacks, aggressive serving, and an abundance of unforced Bulldog errors. The first-year combination of setter Lilly Costigan and outside hitter Giselle Williams left the opposing defense shaken as the Butler blockers struggled to block against Costigan’s fast-paced sets. In conjunction with the relentless attacks, the Hoyas’ aggressive serves left the Bulldog team scrambling for a response. Without favorable passes, Butler setter Marissa McKelvey was not able to set her hitters in a consistent manner, leading to multiple errors at the start of the match as Bulldog hitters attempted to compensate for the initial passes. Georgetown was able to capitalize off these errors and secure an 8-4 lead to begin the match. However, the Bulldogs recovered and closed the gap. In response, the Hoyas leaned upon their perseverant defense led by Junior middle blocker Makayla Serrett. The Hoyas’ suffocating block eased the pressure off the passers allowing for consistent opportunities to dig the ball. With Butler’s middle blockers unable to find their groove early, Serrett and Georgetown’s steady defense assertively took the first set 25-19.
Unfortunately, as the Bulldogs’ middle blockers began to ease into the game, Georgetown found themselves faced with a seemingly new, revitalized team. While the energy and tenacity that helped Georgetown win the first set was present throughout the game, the Bulldogs’ newfound aggression caught the Hoyas off guard. Rather than shying away from their middle hitters, whom the Hoya middles had effectively shut down, the Bulldogs force fed them until they were significantly less affected by the looming blocks of middle blockers Makayla Serrett and Brennan Wilhite. As the Bulldogs’ shook off their sluggish start, both defenses scrambled to adjust to the onslaught of quick sets and well-angled hits. Anchored by senior Jessica Cusi’s incessant communication, the Hoya defense was steadfast in the efforts: setting up their blocks, getting their feet planted before each hit, and diving for all tips and deep shots. As the second set neared its conclusion with the Hoyas trailing 21-22, the Bulldogs were able to capitalize off of a couple Georgetown errors and steal the second set on outside hitter Eleana Brueggerman’s kill.
Despite Georgetown’s relentless defense, the Bulldogs took hold of the momentum and didn’t look back. As the Hoyas did their best to pick up the fast-paced attacks of the Bulldogs, they struggled to capitalize on their opportunities. As the teams partook in more rallies, Georgetown became prone to errors: hitting balls out, misconnecting on the timing of the quick sets that had worked so well in the first set, and suffering from miscommunication mistakes. Fortunately, Georgetown’s persistent defense kept the game close and their tenacity led to errors by some flustered Bulldog hitters.
Defensive-oriented interactions characterized both the third and fourth sets. Unfortunately, Georgetown’s offense was not able to get in rhythm in time as the Hoyas dropped both sets in a battle between a steady Hoya defense and intense Bulldog attackers.
With that being said, there is reason for optimism for the remainder of the season. If Costigan and Williams can find consistency in their fast-paced attacks, they can draw blockers and open up room for the other hitters. Likewise, as the first-year setter Costigan continues to adjust to setting her hitters in real games, she will become more comfortable and control a smoother offense. It’s more likely that the Hoyas’ offense can and will match the intensity and consistency that their defense showed against the Butler Bulldogs this Friday. Despite the setback, the future still looks bright for the Hoyas. The team will travel to Pennsylvania on Wednesday for a matchup with the Big East rival Villanova Wildcats. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for more updates and coverage of all fall sports at Georgetown.