CULLOWHEE, N.C. - In one of the longest and closest three-set matches in Western Carolina volleyball program history the Catamounts fell to Mercer 3-0 Saturday night inside the Ramsey Center. The opening set featured 15 set points before Mercer took a 40-38 decision. The second set also went into extra points as the Bears hung on to win 33-31. The third set was the only one not to go to extras as Mercer closed out the match with a 25-18 win.
The victory moves Mercer’s record to 6-9 on the season and 2-2 in Southern Conference action. WCU drops to 6-11 overall and 1-3 in league play.
Senior Katie O’Connor and freshman Gabby Gray led the way for WCU. O’Connor had a team-high 15 kills on 26 attacks while compiling a .538 attack percentage. The Cartersville, Ga., native also led the way with five blocks in the contest. Gray chipped in 14 kills on 37 attacks with a .378 attack percentage. She also had six digs and three blocks including one solo stop.
Senior setter Jo-Leigh VerVelde dished out 44 assists over the three sets while also digging up a team-high tying 15 balls. She added four kills and a pair of blocks to her tally for another all-around effort. Sophomore Abigail Veit had a quiet night offensively with seven kills but tied for the team-lead in digs with 15. Sophomore libero Meagan Sanchez had 13 digs in the match as well.
The Bears placed four hitters in double-figures led by Paige Alsten who had 19 kills over the three sets. Emily Krogman (17), Morgan MacGilvary (14) and Danielle Faust (11) all added double-figure kills as well. Setter Claire Waliczek had 58 assists in just three sets while also digging up 14 balls.
Mercer hit .290 as a team while the Catamounts came in just behind at .210. The Bears also edged WCU in digs with 75 compared to 66. The Catamounts took the lead in blocks with 10.5 while limiting Mercer to seven.
The opening set was back-and-forth and featured 19 tie scores and eight lead changes and both teams had chances to close out the set prior to the final 40-38 score. The second set was much like the first with 15 tie scores and four lead changes as Mercer hung on for the 33-31 victory. The third set saw Mercer jump out to an early lead and hang on for the 25-18 win.
The Catamounts will now begin preparations for a road trip to Furman and Wofford next Friday and Saturday. WCU will take on Furman on Oct. 6 at 8 pm before traveling to Wofford on Oct. 7 for a 7 pm contest.