This past weekend the Spartan volleyball team squared up against two Southern Conference opponents at home. The first being versus the Mercer Bears, Friday night and the Samford Bulldogs on Saturday night. Both were highly competitive conference matches that ended in a split for the Spartans.
Game One: UNCG vs Mercer
The only Southern Conference team the Spartans loss to at home last season was the Mercer Bears. And from the start, it looked as if that would be the case again, as Mercer jumped out to a quick first set lead. After trailing nien points in the first set, with the Bears five scores away from taking the opening set, the Spartans rallied 11-1 to take the lead and win the set 25-23. The second set was a very different story. UNCG dominated the set and held a 17-11 lead, before the Bears battled back. By the final minutes of the set, the Bears had cut the lead down to two, 23-21. In the end, the Spartans won set two, 25-22, and went into halftime a set away from victory. Though set three was a rocky one for the Spartans and they fell short at 25-18, the team rebounded in set four. Mercer was forced to call two timeouts by the middle of the set, as the Spartans led the set 14-7. The Spartans ended the set and the match on a 7-1 run, defeating the Bears in the last set 25-14. All in all, the Spartans came out strong and secured a 3-1 victory at home.
Allison Penner led the team with 48 assists and added 16 digs as well. Christina Gregory added 17 digs of her own, leading the team, while Ashley Muench throws in 17 kills on 45 attacks.
Game Two: UNCG vs Samford
The Spartans went into Saturday’s game with a lot of momentum after Friday’s victory against Mercer. However that momentum was not enough to lead the team to a victory, despite their best efforts. UNCG came back from a 2-1 set deficit to force a fifth set, where the Bulldogs took the final set and the victory.
“I credit Samford, they made some really good plays tonight” says volleyball head coach Corey Carlin after the match.“ They stayed assertive and aggressive when they needed to but we left a lot of plays on the court and felt like were only a couple plays from winning the match.”
In the first set, the Spartans led 11-7, but Samford came around and tied the set at 12. They went back and forth until both teams tied at 22. After a couple errors from the Spartans, Samford was up 24-22. Krista Boesing of Samford ended the first set at 25-23 with a kill.
The second set mirrored the first set, with UNCG hopping out to a lead and Samford battling back to a score of 23-22 late in the set. At 24-23, in favor of UNCG, the team was able to close out the set and take a tie into halftime, which coach Carlin said was “crucial.”
“It’s always tough when you’re down 2-0, whether you’re on the road or at home” Coach Carlin continues “if you can win the second set it’s a huge momentum shift.”
The third set was tied at 10 when the Bulldogs began to take over. They went on a 7-0 run and scored 15 of the next 19 points. They won the set 25-14. The fourth set saw 18 ties and seven different lead changes throughout. Down 24-23, Coach Carlin called a timeout, the team was a single point away from defeat. They came out of the timeout and scored four of the final five points to take the set. The fifth set was equally as competitive, but Samford prevailed, winning the set 16-14.
At the end of the matchup, Coach Carlin says “we told our team, record-wise, we’re at the same place we were last season. Overall total wins and losses we are right on track to finish top two and we know we are going to be there at the end.”
Allison Penner, junior, again led the team with 50 assists, while senior Ashley Muench recorded 20 kills on 55 attacks.
The Spartans go on a three game road trip this weekend facing off against Wofford College on Friday, Furman University on Saturday, and West Carolina University on Wednesday Oct. 11; all three are Southern Conference opponents. They return to Fleming Gymnasium for three back to back home games, the first being Oct. 13 against the Citadel.