Orlando, Fla. - Western Carolina dropped a pair of matches on Friday on the opening day of competition at the Radisson UCF Invitational held at The Venue at UCF. The Catamounts forced a fourth set in a 3-1 neutral court loss in the season-opener against Florida International before falling in straight sets against the tournament host in the night cap.
WCU (0-2) concludes play in the tournament on Saturday afternoon, facing the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (1-1) at 5:00 pm. EKU, which defeated Northeastern on Friday morning before being swept by UCF, faces Florida International at 11:00 am before the early evening match against the Catamounts.
Senior Jordan Timmermann, a preseason All-Southern Conference selection, tallied 21 kills on a .351 attack percentage in the season-opener to pace the Catamounts. The Florissant, Mo., native finished just two kills shy of her career-best. Junior Nicole Ford posted seven kills while seniors Addy George, Caitlin Piechota and Brandi Anderson each posted six kills apiece.
WCU finished with 13 total team blocks against the Panthers with Ford recording two solo stuffs and six block assists to lead the way. The Catamounts used both setters with junior Cristina Nazario posting 19 assists and eight digs while freshman Jo-Leigh Vervelde handed out 23 helpers in her collegiate debut.
The season's first set saw eight ties and four lead changes between the Catamounts and Panthers with Florida International pulling out a 25-20 victory to take early advantage. FIU led start-to-finish to win the second set, using consecutive scoring runs of six and seven points to grab the 2-0 lead with a 25-15 set win.
The Catamounts rallied to take the third set as FIU managed just one tie at 2-2 before Nazario's serve pushed the Purple & Gold to a lead it would not relinquish, claiming the set, 25-20. The fourth set saw 10 ties and four lead changes with FIU pulling out a hard-fought, 29-27, win to claim the match.
Florida International had four players record double-digit kills with three posting double-doubles. Lucia Castro finished with a match-high 22 kills and 15 digs, joined by Martyna Gluchowicz (16 kills, 11 digs) and Lea Montavon (13 kills, 17 digs).
Against Central Florida, the home squad put four players into double figure kills while amassing a collective .371 attack percentage for the straight-set victory over WCU (16-25, 17-25, 17-25). As hot as UCF was offensively, the Catamounts were unable to find rhythm on the other side of the net, hitting just .130 (27 kills in 115 attacks with 12 errors) in the 3-0 loss.
Most of the offense funneled through Timmermann and Piechota as the duo combined for 66 total attacks, though just eight kills found the court. Ford and George paced the squad with seven and six kills, respectively, with Ford finishing with five (1 solo, four assists) and George with four block assists.
Defensively, Mulheron finished with a team-high 17 digs along the back line. Nazario had 14 assists against UCF.
UCF rattled off eight-straight points in the opening set to take the early lead in the match. The Catamounts jumped out to a 5-1 edge in the second set behind the serve of Nazario. Deadlocked at 13, the Knights outscored WCU 12-to-4 to win 25-17 and take a 2-to-1 advantage.
In the final frame, UCF raced out to 12-4 advantage, prompting both timeouts by the Catamounts to try and stem the tide. WCU was only able to claw back to within six points the remainder of the match - recording five-straight points behind Mulheron's serve - before dropping the third set, 25-17.
Jale Hervey led UCF with 17 kills while Dana Faught posted a double-double with 28 assists and 10 digs.
Fans can follow Saturday evening's match vs. EKU with live GameTracker through CatamountSports.com.