Nov. 19, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -
Western Carolina's 2011 campaign ended Saturday afternoon as the Catamounts (13-20, 8-9) fell to the Furman Paladins in the first round of the SoCon Volleyball Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. The Paladins (21-8, 3-3) downed the Catamounts, 3-0 (19-25, 18-25, 23-25).
"We are very proud of this team and overcoming the expectations that were had by those outside of our program at the beginning of the season," said head coach Karen Glover.
"I am proud of our seniors and the leadership they gave our team this year. Going forward, we have a great nucleus to build on."
Western was held to just 36 kills, its lowest offensive output since falling to Appalachian State on Oct. 12. Caitlin Piechota had the most kills for the Catamounts, posting nine while also scooping up 15 digs. Senior Carrie Minogue tallied eight kills in her final match in the Purple and Gold.
Furman was led by junior Natalie Braun. The second-team All-SoCon performer finished with 20 kills and 13 digs. With nine assists, she was one assist short of a triple double. The Paladins also had three others with double-digit digs.
With Furman taking a 19-9 lead in the first set, WCU took its second timeout of the set. Furman saw most of its first set offense come from junior Natalie Braun. Braun had seven kills in the first set. Western would come back though, picking up momentum as the set continued. Four different Catamounts (Minogue, Piechota, Stoltz and Timmermann) picked up kills, scoring WCU's last four points in the set. Furman would side out of WCU's run, and score the last two points of the set to win the first, 25-19.
After taking a quick 1-0 lead in the second, WCU would knot the match at six. A Furman service error would bring the Catamounts within one of the Paladins' 12-11 lead. The Paladins would side out and rattle off three more points to take a 15-11 advantage, Furman's biggest lead of the set, forcing a Western Carolina timeout. WCU picked up the point out of the timeout. Furman would maintain a cushion of about five points throughout the set, winning the second 25-18.
In the third, Furman continued to pull away from the Catamounts as the set went on. With Furman holding match point ahead 24-19, the Purple and Gold went on a 4-0 run behind the serve of Caitlin Piechota
. After a Furman timeout, the Paladins would seal the match with a Braun kill, taking the set 25-23.
Defensively, the Catamounts were led by Minogue, Stoltz, Timmermann and Scroggins, who all had three total blocks apiece. Sophomore libero Morgan Cochran led the team in digs with 16.
Despite the first-round loss in the tournament, the Catamounts changed the direction of the course of the volleyball program in 2011. Over the previous four seasons, WCU only won nine conference matches total. The 2011 team won eight. For the first time since 1989, a Western Carolina head coach was named the SoCon Volleyball Coach of the Year. Western Carolina's 13 overall wins is the most wins since 2003. Also, the Catamounts defeated rival Appalachian State for the first time since 2008.
The 2011 seniors were a large part of the Catamounts success this season. Senior Carrie Minogue moved into fifth on the WCU all-time list for total blocks with 305 while Rebecca Stoltz moved into tenth all-time thanks to her three blocks against Furman, finishing with 263. Minogue also finished second on the team in kills with 281. Stoltz led the team in service aces with 37. Brittany Lysik moved to the setter position for the first time in her career for the 2011 season. Lysik finished with 1,037 assists, averaging 8.86 per set. She also scooped 321 digs, good enough for third on the team. The seniors also endured transitioning between three different coaching changes in their four years as Catamounts, becoming the first team since 2006.