CULLOWHEE, N.C. - The Western Carolina volleyball team played host to the defending Southern Conference Tournament Champions Friday night as Samford visited the Ramsey Center. The Catamounts put out a strong effort including fighting off three match points in the final set but Samford took away a 3-1 victory.
The victory moved Samford’s record to 2-1 in SoCon play while their season record improved to 7-10. WCU dropped to 6-10 overall and 1-2 in league action.
The trio of sophomore Abigail Veit, senior Katie O’Connor and freshman Gabby Gray led the way for WCU as they all achieved double-digit kills. Veit turned in her 12th career double-double with team-highs in kills, 14, and digs, 20. O’Connor chipped in 13 kills and a team-high five blocks. She captured her 13 kills on just 22 swings while compiling a .500 attack percentage. Gray added 10 kills, five digs and a block to the effort as well.
Senior Jo-Leigh VerVelde had an all-around performance as she picked up five kills from her setter position while dishing out 40 assists and digging up 12 balls. She also had a team-high four service aces including three in the second set. Sophomore Meagan Sanchez dug up 19 balls from her libero position as well.
The Bulldogs placed four hitters in double-figures including Kelsi Hobbs who had 17 kills off the bench for Samford. Krista Boesing added 16 kills while Shayla Phillip had 11. The final Bulldog in double-figures was Kendal Strand who had 10 kills along with a team-high 21 digs.
Samford setter Taylor Anderton had 56 assists over the four sets and also added a pair of blocks and nine digs.
Samford hit .228 as a team while the Catamounts compiled a team attack percentage of .144. The Bulldogs won both the kill (59-48) and dig battle (58-45) while both squads had seven blocks.
Samford took control of the match early as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-12 lead in the first set. WCU showed signs of the tough battle the match would be as the Catamounts used a 10-2 run to tie the set at 22 before Samford scored the final three points to take away a 25-22 victory.
The second set started in the complete opposite way as the Catamounts cruised to a 20-12 lead. Samford would battle back but kills from Gray and O’Connor closed out the set in WCU’s favor 25-19.
The third set swung back in Samford’s favor as the Bulldogs took a 20-13 lead late in the period. Samford would continue to hold the advantage and took a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-18 victory.
The fourth and decisive set opened with Samford coasting to a 10-4 lead but WCU quickly responded and battled its way back to tie the set at 22. After a Samford kill and a Catamount error the Bulldogs took a 24-22 lead and served for the first of their two match points. An attack error by Samford followed by a kill from sophomore Aleah Keaton tied the set at 24. The Bulldogs forced their third match point with another kill but WCU was once again reprieved due to a Bulldog error which tied the set at 25. A WCU error and a Samford kill finally ended the set and match at 27-25.
The Catamounts will be back in action tomorrow, Sept. 29, at 6 pm as they host Mercer in another Southern Conference match. The Bears dropped a 3-1 decision at UNCG Friday night and enter Saturday’s match with a 5-9, 1-2 SoCon record.