Volleyball | McKnight, Speech Lead Hoyas in Final Stretch

FILE PHOTO: STANLEY DAI/THE HOYA Freshman middle blocker Symone Speech (left) leads the Hoyas in blocks with 67. She has recorded the second most points on the team with 260.

Freshman middle blocker Symone Speech (left) leads the Hoyas in blocks with 67. She has recorded the second most points on the team with 260.

The Georgetown volleyball team (9-15, 3-8 Big East) heads out on the road again this weekend, travelling for Big East matches against Seton Hall (11-12, 5-6 Big East) and Villanova (19-5, 9-2 Big East). The road trip is the first of two consecutive weekends away from home, as the Hoyas face matches at DePaul (13-10, 2-9 Big East) and Marquette (17-7, 8-3 Big East) next weekend.

Georgetown is coming off an emphatic 3-0 win over Providence (10-15, 1-10 Big East) Sunday, and will look to build on the confidence it gained from that performance.

The team travels to New Jersey to take on Seton Hall on Friday. The Pirates also come into the match coming off a win, beating DePaul on the road 3-1 Saturday.

Seton Hall’s roster includes standout senior middle blocker Amanda Hansen, who leads the team in both kills and blocks, with 244 and 79, respectively. Defensively, junior libero Tessa Fournier is one of the best in the Big East, leading the Pirates with 437 digs on the season.

Following its Friday match, Georgetown will travel to Philadelphia to take on Villanova. The Wildcats are one of the best teams in the conference this year and will provide the Hoyas with a stern test. Georgetown will hope to end Villanova’s undefeated home-court streak, a run that now stands at seven games.Villanova has a wealth of attacking threats, but Georgetown will be especially focused on sophomore outside hitter Allie Loitz, who leads the team with 300 kills on the season. The Hoyas will try to keep the Wildcats out of system, making senior setter Emma Pettit’s job difficult. Pettit leads Villanova with 966 assists this year.

For Georgetown, this will be the second match of the season against both opponents. The Hoyas fell to both the Pirates and the Wildcats at McDonough Arena in late September.

“It feels a little better going up against them the second time, because you’ve seen them before. Especially if we’ve lost the first time around, the hunger to win the second time is even stronger,” freshman middle blocker Symone Speech, who was named to the Big East Honor Roll for her impressive performances last weekend, said.

Head Coach Arlisa Williams identified serving and aggressive hitting as the two main focuses for the Hoyas going into this weekend.

“When we serve well, it makes the other team a whole lot easier to defend. They cannot run all three options, they’re off the net, we know that we’re going to block cross-court, it just makes our life that much easier. And then we can win in the transition game,” Williams said.

In terms of hitting, Williams is hoping for a repeat performance of the aggressive style Georgetown showcased against Providence, when Hoya players were unafraid to make mistakes.

“We want them to go out and take big swings and take some risks. I’ve been coaching for 21 years and I’ve never seen a team hit 1.000,” Williams said.

Speech also pointed out the importance of freshman setter Paige McKnight’s passing ability, which helped Speech average 3.43 kills per set in the team’s two games last weekend, to the team’s recent success.

“Paige is very good at seeing where the hitters are, so when she’d set she’d lead me so that I’d have no block. Just really good setting by Paige,” Speech said.

Williams echoed Speech’s compliments.

“Paige plays at such a high level all of the time. She works hard at practice, she has such a great volleyball IQ. When she plays well, our team does well, and I haven’t seen her not play well, to be honest,” Williams said.

Williams and the rest of the Hoyas will be hoping that Speech, McKnight and the rest of the team can carry on with their recent success this weekend. The game against Seton Hall will start at 7 p.m.

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