FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/ THE HOYA Senior outside hitter Alex Johnson had 16 kills and 17 digs against the Butler Bulldogs in four sets played during the 3-1 away loss.
Senior outside hitter Alex Johnson had 16 kills and 17 digs against the Butler Bulldogs in four sets played during the 3-1 away loss.

Heading into Sunday’s match against Butler (9-5, 1-1 Big East), the Georgetown women’s volleyball team (6-10, 0-3 Big East) looked to earn its first conference win of the season and end a six-game skid.

The Hoyas were coming off home losses to the Creighton Bluejays (10-6, 3-0 Big East) and the Xavier Musketeers (8-6, 1-1 Big East), and the Butler Bulldogs also proved too tough an opponent, with the Hoyas falling 3-1.

The first two sets were neck-and-neck throughout. The Hoyas came out strong, taking the lead early in the first set through great play from senior outside hitter Alex Johnson, who ended up with five kills and eight digs in the set. Georgetown took the first set 26-24 but was unable to capitalize on this momentum as Butler struck back in another hotly contested set, which the Bulldogs won 28-26.

“In the first set, if you look through the stats, we didn’t score that many points,” Head Coach Arlisa Williams said. “We scored 17 points. Butler had eight unforced errors though and that’s how we got to 25. In the second set, we actually [scored points]. We earned the points on our kills, our blocks and our serves. And that made the big difference for us.”

The third set saw the Hoyas off to an early 8-4 lead, but Butler responded with a 14-3 run that left the score 18-11 in Butler’s favor. The Hoyas kept their heads up, however, and rallied with kills from sophomore middle blocker Ashlie Williams and senior middle blocker Dani White, shaving the margin to 19-21.

Butler managed to hold on with another run, winning the set 25-19. Blocks were the difference-maker in the set, as Butler dominated the net with 6.5 blocks to Georgetown’s zero, and made tips over the net a key fixture in its offense.

“We definitely let a lot of tips fall, which is something we haven’t experienced against a team before, so that was a whole new element of the game that we haven’t really had much practice with. If we could have gotten those tips up a little quicker, we probably wouldn’t have had as many points lost,” Ashlie Williams said.

The Hoyas regrouped in the fourth set to pull ahead 10-9, fueled by three straight kills from Johnson. From there, the set was back and forth, but Butler ultimately won 25-22.

Although the Hoyas fell 3-1, Ashlie Williams, who led the team with 17 kills and a .484 hitting percentage, thought the squad played some of its best volleyball of the year.

“I felt really good. We played a lot better today than we’ve played in the past couple weeks, so it’s definitely a building process,” she said. “We’re figuring out what we need to do on the court to get points and we definitely improved that today. Although we had some missteps, I think we made some great strides today.”

The Hoyas also featured some great individual play in the match. “I was real happy with how Ashlie Williams played tonight,” Coach Williams said. “She had a really good match for us. She was very effective offensively. She was touching a lot of balls blocking-wise. I think she did a really nice job there. [Freshman outside hitter] Terese Cannon played well on the pin as well in the fourth set, just making sure we got great big swings from both her and Alex Johnson when we needed them. Those things are huge and we’ll continue to build on them.”

Senior libero MacKenzie Simpson led the team with 20 digs, and sophomore setter Caitlin Brauneis added 18 digs and 55 assists.

Coach Williams remains unfazed by the recent losses

“We come in every single day, and our job is to compete as hard as we can, to play with enthusiasm and to make sure that we’re productive. We focus on that every single week, just being aggressive and taking care of strengths,” she said. However, she also noted that the team must improve its consistency. “We do a lot of good things and we just need to figure out how to string them along and not just have them in short sprints,” Williams said.

In a weak and wide-open conference that currently features no Big East schools in the national top 25, the Hoyas still have much to play for. Georgetown will have a second chance to earn its first Big East win this Friday at Marquette (11-3, 2-0 Big East). The game in Milwaukee, Wis. will serve as the first in a series of conference away games.

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