BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Western Carolina volleyball team entered as the underdogs Saturday as the #7 seeded Catamounts faced the #2 seed UNCG at the 2016 Southern Conference Championship in Birmingham, Ala. The first two sets told a different story as the Catamounts jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Spartans but following the 10 minute halftime break UNCG responded winning the final three sets to claim the quarterfinal victory.
Junior Jo-Leigh VerVelde achieved a career milestone in the loss as she surpassed 1,000 career digs. She needed seven entering the match and succeeded with 13 digs to move to 1,006.
Four Catamounts went over the double-digit mark in kills as junior Katie O'Connor led the way with 13 while hitting at an impressive .550 clip. Sophomore Moea Osbey added 11 kills while freshmen Abigail Veit and Aleah Keaton each had 10.
O'Connor added a team-high seven blocks while Osbey and Keaton had five. Veit recorded a double-double with her 10 digs while also leading the team with three service aces.
VerVelde dished out 44 assists to go along with her 13 digs. She also stuffed three Spartan attacks. Freshman libero Meagan Sanchez dug up a team-high 28 balls.
The Spartans were led by three hitters including Ashley Muench who had a match-high 24 kills. Jessica Brezwyn added 19 while Jasmine Jones had 12.
WCU won the opening set 25-21 and never trailed. The score was tied at 1-1 and 7-7 but other than those two points WCU led the entire way. The second set saw UNCG score the first point before WCU took control. The Catamounts scored three-straight points to take a 3-1 lead and they would never trail again in the set as they won, 25-20.
The third set was the tightest of the five. UNCG held the early lead but the Catamounts battled back to tie the set at 16 with a kill by O'Connor. The two teams would trade points the rest of the way. UNCG used a short 2-0 run to take a 24-21 lead. A Spartan service error and a kill by Keaton cut the lead to one before a WCU service error closed out the set 25-23 in UNCG's favor.
The fourth set was back-and-forth early but a run midway through the period gave UNCG the advantage which they carried to a 25-15 win. The fifth and decisive set was once again close in the beginning but a mid-set run gave UNCG a four-point advantage. WCU battled back to cut the Spartans lead to just one at 13-12 off an O'Connor kill. The Spartans took a timeout and then responded with a kill and an ace to claim the 15-12 win.