CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - For the first time since the 2013 season, the Western Carolina volleyball team went into Chattanooga’s home gym and picked up a victory. The win also was the first Southern Conference victory for the Catamounts this season. Sophomore Abigail Veit put on a tremendous performance as she turned in an 18 kill, 18 dig double-double in the 3-2 victory Friday night.
The Catamounts jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the match but Chattanooga battled back to force a fifth set. WCU responded to the rally and had a perfect sideout percentage in the deciding stanza to help capture a 15-9 victory.
The victory gives WCU a 6-9 overall record and evens out its SoCon record to 1-1. UTC drops to 7-8 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
Veit was flanked on the offensive attack by senior Katie O’Connor and sophomore Aleah Keaton who each turned in double-digit kill performances. O’Connor had 12 kills on just 20 attacks while also leading the team with six blocks. Three of O’Connor’s six blocks were of the solo variety as she added three more block assists to her career total which sits atop the WCU record book. Keaton had 10 kills on 24 attacks with no errors and also chipped in three block assists.
Freshman Gabby Gray, who returned to Chattanooga where she played prep volleyball at the Baylor School, just missed out on a double-double with nine kills and 15 digs. Freshman MaKenzie White chipped in seven kills and a pair of blocks.
Senior setter Jo-Leigh VerVelde had a career-high 51 assists, 14 digs and tied for the team lead in blocks with a career-high tying six. She had two solo stops to go along with a team-high four block assists. Sophomore libero Meagan Sanchez led the squad with 21 digs over the five sets.
Chattanooga had five hitters reach double-figures in kills led by Ally Ford who had a match-high 21.
The Mocs had 32 attack errors and also produced nine service errors for a total of 41 WCU points off of UTC errors. The Catamounts on the other hand have UTC just 26 points of Catamount misplays. Twelve of UTC’s errors came on WCU blocks as the Catamounts out-blocked the Mocs 12 to nine.
The Catamounts opened the match with a 25-21 first set victory. WU pulled ahead midway through the set but never took more than a five point lead throughout. A block by Keaton and White closed out the set for WCU. The second set saw UTC take a slight lead midway through but a late rally from WCU gave the Catamounts a 25-22 win. Trailing 20-18, the Catamounts closed out the set with a 7-2 run powered by a trio of kills from Veit. White had the deciding kills as she took an assist from VerVelde to secure the set, 25-22.
The third set was back-and-forth with both teams holding leads throughout by 5-1 run by the Mocs at the end of the period gave Chattanooga a 25-21 victory. The fourth set saw the Mocs take a small lead midway through that they carried until the end eventually capturing a 25-21 win.
After UTC scored the first point of the fifth set, WCU scored five of the next six to take a 5-2 lead and force Chattanooga to take its first timeout. The Catamounts would maintain their lead the rest of the way as local product Gray closed out the match with a kill at 15-9.
The Catamounts will now have a week to focus on preparations for Samford and Mercer who will travel to Cullowhee next weekend. The Bulldogs will battle WCU on Friday, Sept. 29 while Mercer and WCU take to the court on Saturday, Sept. 30. Both matches are scheduled for 6 pm starts.