Grand Forks, N.D. – Junior Meagan Sanchez became the 22nd player in Western Carolina volleyball history to surpass the 1,000 career digs mark as the Catamounts split a pair of matches against North Dakota and Eastern Washington on Friday at the UND Classic. Western Carolina dropped a 3-0 decision to host North Dakota on Friday morning before claiming a 3-1 win over Eastern Washington in the nightcap for a 4-1 record to start the 2018 season.

Match 1: North Dakota 3, Western Carolina 0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-16)

North Dakota posted 8.5 blocks as the Fighting Hawks held Western Carolina to a season-low .051 hitting percentage in the first setback of 2018 for the Catamounts.

Sanchez recorded a team-leading 10 digs in the match to give her 1,001 career digs. Aleah Keaton and MaKenzie White both had five kills. Hannah Price tallied a team-best 13 assists and finished with nine digs.

Kayla Williams led North Dakota with 11 kills followed by Ashley Brueggeman with 10 kills. Alivia Fraase recorded a match-high 18 digs. Williams, Fraase and Madi Hart finished with two service aces each.

Western Carolina began the match on a 6-1 run before the Fighting Hawks evened the set at seven on a Williams kill. Following four consecutive North Dakota errors that allowed the Catamounts to draw even at 15-15, consecutive kills by Jordan Vail and Williams gave the hosts a 21-17 edge. WCU would get no closer than three points for the remainder of the set.

A Williams service ace gave the Fighting Hawks an 8-2 advantage. Trailing 18-10, the Catamounts went on a 9-3 run to slash the North Dakota lead to 21-19 after a UND service error.  North Dakota recorded the final four points to claim the set.

North Dakota opened the third set on a 16-3 run. Western Carolina fended off match point five times before a Vail kill ended the match.

Match 2: Western Carolina 3, Eastern Washington 1 (26-24, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22)

After claiming the first two sets, Western Carolina dropped the third set before a late charge in the fourth set allowed the Catamounts to close out a tightly contested match.

White led the Catamount offense with 13 kills while freshman Merry Gebel tallied her first career double-double with 12 kills and 16 digs. Sanchez contributed a team-best 20 digs.

Catelyn Linke led the Eagles with a match-best 19 kills followed by Taylor Larsen with 11 kills. Puaoolelagi Sao had a match-high 23 digs.

The opening set featured five ties and two lead changes with four points being the largest lead enjoyed by either team. Eastern Washington took a 16-12 lead before a Price ace brought the Catamounts within one, 18-17. Trailing 23-20, the Catamounts went on a 4-0 run capped by a Sanchez service ace for a 24-23 lead. Eastern Washington tied the set at 24 before a White kill and an attack error gave the Catamounts a 1-0 edge.

Eastern Washington began the second set on an 8-3 run but the Catamounts drew even at 13 on a service error. Sydney Carlson’s service ace gave the Catamounts a 21-16 lead as the Eagles would get no closer than three points the rest of the way.

With the third set tied at 22, Kaitlin Sugai delivered a pair of kills for a 24-22 EMU lead. A bad set kept the Catamounts alive before an error clinched the set for the Eagles.  

Caroline Perret’s service ace gave the Catamounts a 20-16 lead in the fourth set before consecutive kills by Linke tied the set at 21. The Catamounts responded with four of the next five points and clinched the match with a Gebel service ace.

Western Carolina concludes play at the UND Classic on Saturday against Louisiana Tech at 5 p.m. ET

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