South Orange, N.J – The Seton Hall women’s volleyball team fell to the Xavier Musketeers on Senior Night in a hard-fought five-set loss. The fourth-place Wildcats of Villanova had already won earlier on in the day, meaning the Pirates were regardless of win-or-loss, destined to finish the regular season one place shy of cracking the top four and securing a berth in the Big East tournament.
The first set of the game was the most competitive of the match, as the two teams went deep into tiebreakers. It took Xavier to reach 30 before securing a 30-28 victory in a set where there were 14 ties and in which no team held a lead larger than three. An Abby Thelen block helped keep the Pirates alive in the earliest of the set points, and from there, both teams went back and forth with kills. Finally, though, Xavier took the opening set as an attack error caused the Pirates demise.
The set was bittersweet as the Pirates fell but showed incredible fight in doing so. The set was in many ways an encapsulation of the match; a final match for the likes of seniors Sharay Barnes, Sarah Kenneweg and Dominique Mason. Seton Hall head coach Allison Yaeger said her seniors brought leadership to the program, along with other intangibles.
“They’ve brought a lot to this program over the last couple years; we’re so happy to have them and so sad to see them go,” Yaeger said. “Their voices are what I’m going to miss the most, they’re all leaders.”
Coach Yaeger also reflected on how her team played above expectations this year, once again.
“We got picked to come in eighth and we are going to finish fifth while coming a couple games shy of finishing third,” Yaeger said. “It’s tough not to make the [Big East] Tournament, that’s always our goal every year. Getting picked eighth always fires them up – it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Mason and Kenneweg had milestone efforts in their collegiate finales, as Mason tallied a career-high in kills with 25, while Sarah Kenneweg got her first career double-double in her 125th career match, with all coming in the blue and white.
The Hall was most dominant in the second set, scoring four unanswered points to tie the match at one-a-piece. Similar to the first set, both teams were neck and neck for the most part, albeit the Pirates maintained a lead throughout. Two kills from Sharay Barnes, as well as a kill from Domonique Mason, helped the Pirates storm to the set win.
The Pirates went on to win the third set after overcoming a five-point deficit, but dropped the fourth set after coming back to tie the set, but not being able to get the final few points.
In the fifth and final set, the Pirates dominated the first half as they went out to an early 6-2 lead. But when the teams switched sides, the Musketeers made it very competitive, tying the game at nine. Needing an answer, the Pirates could only produce errors as they saw Xavier run away with the lead. The Pirates fought off two match-points, but ultimately conceded the set, 15-11.
Despite missing out on the postseason, the team did finish above preseason expectations for the fourth consecutive season. The Pirates also secured a ten-win season during conference play for the third time in four years.
Evando Thompson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Thompsev.