GREENSBORO, N.C. - For the second-straight match the Western Carolina volleyball team faced one of the top teams in the Southern Conference and for the second time the Catamounts nearly pulled off the upset as the Spartans of UNCG escaped with a 3-2 victory in Greensboro Wednesday night. Senior Katie O’Connor continues to save her best for last as she once again had a career night on the court. O’Connor had a team-high 18 kills which ranks as her second-highest total of her career following the 21 she had against Furman last Saturday.
WCU jumped out to the early lead after winning the opening set. The two teams would trade sets with WCU winning the first and third and the Spartans taking sets two, four and five. The Catamounts led 13-10 late in the fifth set but a 4-0 run by the Spartans forced the first match point of the evening. WCU rallied to tie the set at 14 but UNCG closed out the match with back-to-back kills at 16-14.
The loss drops WCU’s record to 10-18 overall and 5-10 in Southern Conference play. The Spartans improved to 17-10 overall and 10-5 in league action.
O’Connor added four block assists to her already impressive 18 kills. Freshman MaKenzie White joined O’Connor in double-figures with 15 kills. She added a pair of blocks and two digs as well. Freshman Gabby Gray nearly hit the double-digit mark with nine kills and a team-high five blocks including one solo. Gray also had 12 digs and a service ace.
Senior Jo-Leigh VerVelde had a massive double-double with 43 assists and a team-high 25 digs. She also added four kills and three blocks to an already stuffed stat sheet. Freshman Caroline Perret excelled defensively with 22 digs while sophomores Meagan Sanchez and Abigail Veit each added 16.
UNCG had three attackers in double-figures including Ashley Muench who led the way with 17. Holly Behrends and Lauren Robeck added 12 and 11 kills, respectively.
The Catamounts finished with just one less kill than the Spartans and out-blocked UNCG by one. WCU compiled a .201 hitting percentage while UNCG clocked in at .166.
The Catamounts won the opening set 25-17 before UNCG responded with the exact same score reversed in the second set. The third set would nearly match the first with the Catamounts winning 25-16. UNCG once again responded in the fourth with another 25-17 set score. The fifth set looked like it was swinging WCU’s way but a late surge gave UNCG the edge at 16-14.
WCU has just one regular season match remaining on its schedule as the Catamounts travel to The Citadel Friday night for a 7 pm contest. Following the season finale, Western Carolina will serve as host of the 2017 Southern Conference Championship, Nov. 17-19. All nine Southern Conference teams will be vying for the trophy and the automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.