MACON, Ga. - Coming off a thrilling five-set victory over mountain rival ETSU this past Sunday, the Western Carolina volleyball team took its show on the road Friday night and dropped Mercer 3-1 as freshman Gabby Gray posted her second-straight 20-plus kill performance. The Catamounts back-to-back victories move the team just one game behind a tie for fifth-place in the Southern Conference standings with five matches left on the schedule.
The victory improves WCU's record to 9-15 on the season while moving its SoCon mark to 4-7. The Bears fell to 8-16 and 2-9 in league play.
Gray led the Catamount attack Friday night as she tallied 20 kills and 15 digs for her second-straight double-double. Freshman Hannah Price continued to grow in her outside hitter role as she posted her first double-digit kill performance in just her second match as an outside hitter. Price had 10 kills, five digs and three blocks.
Sophomore Aleah Keaton led the defensive effort as she posted a team-high six blocks. Senior Jo-Leigh VerVelde posted another double-double with 44 assists and 10 digs. She also had five kills and 10 digs over the four sets.
The Catamounts fell behind early against the Bears as Mercer won the opening set 25-23. WCU led by as many as five points in the opening stanza but the Bears came back late to steal the win. The Catamounts would respond by winning the next three sets to claim the victory.
In the second set the action was close early but a late push by the Catamounts opened up the margin to a final of 25-19. The Catamounts pulled ahead midway through the third set and never looked back as they coasted to a 25-18 win. The fourth set was a mirror of the opening period but it was a pair of Mercer errors late that gave WCU a 25-23 victory.
The Bears had more kills (60-56) and digs (68-67) than the Catamounts but WCU limited its attack errors (21-16) and service errors (8-5) while also out-blocking (9-4) the Bears to claim the victory.
Mercer was led by Paige Alsten who had 23 kills and a pair of blocks in the loss. Sarah Stewart was the only other Bear in double-figures as she had 11 kills and two blocks.
The Catamounts will now hit the road to take on one of those teams that is just one game ahead of them in the standings as WCU battles Samford Saturday night. The Bulldogs, who have a 5-6 SoCon mark, will take on the Catamounts (4-7 SoCon) at 8 pm.