Villanova, Pa. - Villanova volleyball pulled off the upset downing No. 9 Creighton in straight sets Friday night in front of a raucous crowd in Jake Nevin Field House. Villanova handed Creighton its first BIG EAST regular season loss since 2017 (31 matches), which also happened to be in straight sets in Nevin.
"The Ghost of Jake Nevin came and got them tonight," head coach Josh Steinbach said. "Playing at home makes a big difference. We had a great crowd and a great environment. It's hard to play in here and it's everybody's least favorite place to play in the conference and we like that. We are stoked about the crowd we got and the kids played hard all match long."
The Wildcats were led offensively by another stellar performance from freshman right side hitter Kathleen Johnson, who recorded 13 kills on 18 attacks and posted a .667 hitting percentage.
"She played like she's been playing for four years in the program," Coach Steinbach said. "She has no fear, is taking big swings and is just getting after it. She's a special kid."
While the freshman made the most noise on offense, a pair of seniors stepped up big as well. Emma Decker was as good as ever, dishing out 34 assists, good for 11.3 assists/set. Regan Lough turned in a big performance on defense, posting 20 digs on the night.
"Emma has been outstanding all year long," Coach Steinbach said. "She is the best setter we've had in the history of the program and continues to astound us with things she can do. She played a great match tonight, located well and served great, defended when we needed her to, had a couple of big blocks. Regan just plays as hard as anybody else around. When you have a libero and a setter that play at a high level you're going to be pretty good."
Villanova got the crowd to its feet early, taking a 10-6 lead following kills from Johnson and Allie Olsonoski and an ace from Emma Decker and forcing an early Creighton timeout. After the four-point lead, the 'Cats proved they had come to play and did not relinquish that lead, despite a late Creighton run to cut it to 23-22. After a 'Nova timeout, an attack error by the Bluejays and another kill form Olsonoski pushed the Wildcats to a 25-22 win.
EXPLAINER: The college volleyball rotation, explained
The first set was huge for both the team and the crowd, each of who bottled that momentum and kept it rolling through the second set. Villanova came out on fire and instantly took a 7-1 lead. Creighton made a quick run to cut it to 9-7, but 'Nova went on another run and pushed it right back to 15-7, and eventually led by as much as 19-10. Mallory Potts had the hot hand in the second set, notching a team-best five kills. The defense was as good as you could ask for in the second and held Creighton to hitting .000 in the set. Nova had 17 digs and four blocks in the set to stifle to Bluejay attack. Villanova took the set 25-16, handing Creighton its largest margin of defeat in a single set this season.
It looked like Creighton founds its groove early in the third set and was ready to turn it on after taking a 4-1 lead. Villanova hung around, just a few points back all the way to the first tie at 11-11. The teams were neck and neck through the middle portions of the match until 'Nova took its first lead at 16-15. Johnson saved her best for last and exploded for six kills on just seven attacks while also getting in on a block in the final set. The 'Cats then wasted no time in putting the match away, closing the match on a 10-5 run to complete the upset 25-20.
Villanova hit .333 for the match, but even more impressively, held Creighton to just .134, its second worst mark of the year behind only its loss to No. 7 Nebraska.
🎶It's Freaky Friday🎶— NCAA Volleyball (@NCAAVolleyball) November 9, 2019
Not ☝️, but ✌️ top-10 teams fall on Friday night, with @NovaVolleyball sweeping No. 9 Creighton and @OhioStateWVB taking down No. 4 Wisconsin to hand each respective teams their first conference loss of the year.#NCAAVB pic.twitter.com/AYfzzc4cBh
The Wildcats picked up their first ranked win of the season, and first since knocking off No. 21 Utah last season. This is also the first top-10 win of Josh Steinbach's 13-year tenure.
"I've told them all year there's nobody we can't beat if we play the way we're capable of," Steinbach said. "I'm really proud of our kids and what we're doing right now. Looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow night."
The team will have to put this one behind them quickly, as they face Providence tomorrow at 4 o'clock. That match can be found on Nova Nation All-Access.