February 8, 2023 

Villanova is leaning on more than Maddy Siegrist for its success

Wildcats' Olsen and Dalce are both adding to Villanova's success this season

There’s no debating it: Villanova forward Maddy Siegrist is one of the best players in the nation. Division I’s leading scorer, for men’s or women’s, is having one of, if not the greatest seasons in Villanova program history. She is up for prestigious awards like the John R. Wooden Award and the Katrina McClain Award. 

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But every team has five players on the court at all times for a reason: It takes five players to win in basketball. That was once again evident in their 78-58 afternoon win against Butler on Saturday. In the first six and half minutes of the game, Siegrist took only one shot. It was her teammate, guard Lucy Olsen, who started things off for the Wildcats. Olsen scored nine of Nova’s first 11 points, hitting three out of her four 3-point attempts in the first quarter.

Olsen would end the game with 18 points on 6-11 shooting from the field and 3-6 from 3-point range. The performance continues a trend for Olsen, as she has averaged 18.2 points on 50% from the field in the last five games. She credits her current efficient play to her teammates.

“My team helped me out a lot,” Olsen said. “I think everyone else was getting involved a lot more, so it gave me confidence to get involved too. I think we just started sharing the ball really well.”

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Olsen also dished out five assists in contrast to two turnovers. Creating for others and keeping possession of the ball is a part of her game that has been at an elite level all season long. She ranks first in the BIG EAST and fifth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. With Olsen leading the way, the whole team does a great time of not giving away the ball. The Wildcats average 10.3 turnovers a game — they had nine against Butler — which ranks them first in the BIG EAST and second in the nation.

Head coach Denise Dillon says that stressing the value of each possession has hit home with her players and allows them to maximize each trip to the offensive side of the court.

“I think just being aware, being strong with the ball and seeing the next pass but not forcing things — we did a couple times today,” Dillon said. “I think Christina [Dalce] does a great job of running the floor. So it’s tempting to send her a pass, but you got to recognize there’s people on her back. So we did have a couple turnovers heading to her, but just understand … see that next pass [and] find your open teammate. We’re willing to share the ball, which is great, glad we are taking care of it as well. Just the importance of valuing the possession and getting a shot each time at the rim.”

The aforementioned Christina Dalce has been doing more than just running the floor well this season. She is second on the team in rebounds per game and leads the BIG EAST in blocks. With a 13-point, 11-rebound and three-block performance on Saturday, Dalce has now had eight games with 10+ rebounds and 11 games with 3+ blocks. As much hard work that requires, Dalce says it is more about her ability to time her jumps correctly than actually working at it.

Villanova forward Christina Dalce goes up for a shot against a Red Storm defender on Jan. 14. (Photo credit: Villanova Athletics)

“It’s more like I think about timing, depending on where the shot is coming from,” Dalce said. “And looking at where it’s gonna land and try to get into proper position to do that. But it does get difficult when someone’s like, boxing me I don’t even see where they’re going. So I’m trying to get in position trying to move them around them…”

A sophomore this season, Dalce has made huge strides in the eyes of her teammates and coaches.

“She is unbelievable defensively,” Siegrist said about Dalce. “She has grown so much as a player from a freshman to a sophomore and just seeing her take that jump and really just work so hard, it’s just great to see.”

Dillon shared the sentiment, adding that Dalce still has more room to get even better.

“Her growth has been so welcoming, Dillon said. “You know as a coach you’re so proud just to see someone come into her own this early in her career and she’s only tapping that potential, so she continues to rebound [and] great things happen for us. I just think her defensive presence has been real nice in the paint.”

With Siegrist, Olsen and Dalce leading the charge, Villanova continues to compete at a high level in the BIG EAST. Currently ranked No. 19 in the nation and second in the BIG EAST, seven more games separate the Wildcats from another shot at a BIG EAST title and NCAA tournament bid. Nova has already produced a better output than last year so far — the Wildcats were 14-6 at this date season. 

Like any coach, Dillon wants a little more out of here team but is proud of what they’ve accomplished in their 20-4 start.

“We’re in a good spot. I know I get a little greedy, you know; I just want a little bit more out of them. But I do feel that this group has really good potential. And we continue to recognize some of those things, continue on the right trajectory.”

Villanova will face Georgetown next in Washington, DC, on Feb. 8.

Written by Kobe Mosley

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