Cullowhee, N.C. – The Western Carolina volleyball team is off to a 3-0 start thanks to a pair of victories in the Catamount Volleyball Classic on Saturday. WCU defeated Charleston Southern 3-0 on Saturday afternoon before closing out the tournament with a 3-1 triumph over Middle Tennessee State in the nightcap. With the weekend tournament sweep, the Catamounts are off to their first 3-0 start since the 2013 season. 

Match 1 – Western Carolina 3, Charleston Southern 0 (25-20, 25-23, 25-22) 

Junior Abigail Veit led WCU over the Buccaneers by recording her first double-double of the season with 14 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore MaKenzie White finished in double figures in kills for the second straight match with 12. Freshman Merry Gebel led three Catamounts in double figure digs with 17, followed by Veit and junior Meagan Sanchez with 11 apiece. The Catamounts recorded seven service aces in the match, led by freshman Sydney Carlson with four. 

Madison Malloch and Macey Laporte each recorded 12 kills to lead Charleston Southern. Madison Martin and Hannah Western both contributed 16 digs, followed by Naiomi Rivera with 10.

Following a Carlson ace, the Catamounts led 17-13 in the opening set before Charleston Southern pulled within three, 19-16, on a kill by Western. The Catamounts took control down the stretch, claiming a 24-17 advantage on the heels of a Merry Gebel service ace before closing out the set on a White kill.

Western Carolina trailed 20-18 following an Addison Kaderli kill before battling back to knot the second set at 22. Consecutive kills from Veit and White allowed Western Carolina to earn set point, 24-22, before Laporte brought the Buccaneers within one. A White kill clinched the second set.

Western Carolina raced out to an 8-4 lead in the third set and stretched its margin to 16-9 following a Veit kill.  Charleston Southern battled back, drawing to within a point on a Laporte kill at 23-22 before back-to-back kills by White and Veit closed out the match. 

Match 2 – Western Carolina 3, Middle Tennessee State 1 (28-26, 23-25, 25-11, 25-18)

In the nightcap, the Catamounts claimed a hard-fought opening set before dropping the second stanza. Undeterred, WCU rallied to claim the third and fourth sets in convincing fashion to wrap up the tournament sweep.

Veit and classmate Aleah Keaton both posted 10 kills to lead the Catamount offense. Carlson recorded a career-high five service aces. Defensively, Sanchez posted a season-best 23 digs followed by Gebel with 15 digs. The versatile Hannah Price, listed as a setter, recorded a career-best six block assists.

Bailey Mason and Regan Coughlin finished in double figures with 12 and 11 kills, respectively to lead Middle Tennessee State. Brienna Tankesley posted a match-high 25 digs as Sarah Sumida dished out a match-best 36 assists.

The opening set featured 13 ties and seven lead changes with the largest lead enjoyed by either team being three points. Madison McNally gave the Catamounts a 19-16 lead following a kill before five consecutive kills gave the Blue Raiders a 23-21 lead. A Coughlin kill gave MTSU a 24-23 lead before a Keaton kill and a Carlson service aces evened the score at 24. Veit and Vonnie Covington traded kills to even the set at 25 before Aubrie Huddleston’s kill gave the Blue Raiders set point. The Catamounts used a block, followed by a Gebel kill and an attack error to emerge with an opening set win.

Back-to-back Emma Grever kills gave the Blue Raiders an 11-6 lead in the second set. Western Carolina would answer, taking advantage of three straight MTSU errors to even the score at 18 before a Gebel kill gave the Catamounts a 19-18 lead. MTSU pulled ahead for good on a Coughlin kill and wrapped up the set on a Mason kill.

Western Carolina opened the third set on a 14-4 run capped by a pair of Veit service aces. The Blue Raiders would get no closer than eight points the rest of the set as WCU took a 2-1 match lead.

The Catamounts jumped out to a fast start for the second straight set, pulling ahead 16-4 in the decisive fourth set following a Middle Tennessee attack error. The Blue Raiders pulled within four points, 21-17, thanks to a Julia Valdez kill, but Western Carolina scored four of the final five points to wrap up a tournament sweep.

WCU will make the first visit in program history to North Dakota next weekend, taking part in the UND Classic against North Dakota, Eastern Washington and Louisiana Tech on Friday and Saturday in Grand Forks before wrapping up the weekend at North Dakota State in Fargo on Sunday.