The Elon University volleyball team won all three matches through the weekend at the 49er Invitational in Charlotte, N.C. to grab its first winning record of the season.
The Phoenix beat Tennessee State University 3-1 (18-25, 25-23, 27-25, 25-22), South Carolina State University 3-0 (25-19, 25-11, 25-18) and the host, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 3-1 (22-25, 25-17, 27-25, 25-19).
Against Tennessee State Friday, Sept. 20, Elon dropped the first set before gutting out three straight set wins. The final set being capped off by a 7-1 Phoenix run. Sophomore outside hitter Megan Gravley handled the scoring load for Elon, scoring 23 points, 22 of which were kills.
In Elon’s first match of the weekend, a service ace by junior defensive specialist Jaime Cooper put the Tigers up 10-7, a lead which they would maintain for the rest of the first set. Two straight kills by Gravley helped Elon cut it to 23-18, but Tennessee State closed the set on a kill by junior outside hitter Taylor Swazer.
Three errors and a service ace put the Phoenix in a 6-2 hole in the second set. Elon tied it up at 13-all after a kill by Gravley. The Phoenix went on a 4-0 run, two points coming off blocks by sophomore middle blocker Catherine Head, to gain a 19-16 advantage. The Tigers tied the game at 23-all, but a kill by Gravley and a service ace by junior middle blocker Kris Harris gave Elon the set win.
In the third set, Elon faced another early deficit after a service error by freshman defensive specialist Morgan Maner put the Tigers up 8-4. A 9-2 run by Elon forced Tennessee State to take a timeout, and the Tigers trailed until a block by junior outside hitter Naomi Wells and freshman middle blocker Shuantia Carr gave them the 22-21 lead, but two consecutive kills by freshman outside hitter Kayla Agae ended the set in Elon’s favor.
Elon got off to the hot start in the fourth set in gaining a 9-4 advantage after a block by Harris and junior right-side hitter Danielle Smith. The Phoenix was in control until a 10-2 run by the Tigers forced Elon to take a timeout. Three straight errors by the Tigers gave Elon the 25-22 win.
Agae had 11 points and four blocks in the match. Harris added six points, eight blocks and continued to serve well, adding two service aces. Senior defensive specialist Maggie Reichard contributed 26 kills and two assists.
For Tennessee State, Wells led the team with 13 kills. Junior middle hitter Sherryce Butler chipped in nine kills and five blocks. Senior setter Erika Moss had 35 assists.
Elon faced an early deficit against South Carolina State like it did against Tennessee State, but managed to sweep the winless Bulldogs due to Harris’ presence on the front line. Harris finished with 12 points, one service ace and six blocks.
Seven Elon errors helped the Bulldogs gain an early 14-6 lead in the first set. The Phoenix later scored eight straight to grab a 19-15 advantage. South Carolina State eventually narrowed the deficit to two, but two kills by Agae pushed Elon to a set win.
The second set was dominated by the Phoenix, with six attack errors by South Carolina State giving Elon an 11-5 lead. Two kills by senior middle hitter Desire Waller reduced the deficit to four points, but a 6-0 run by the Phoenix afterwards put the set out of reach.
After an early 6-2 lead, the Phoenix struggled to put the Bulldogs away in the third set. A service ace by senior middle hitter Taylor Bailey reduced the Elon lead to one point. Leading 18-17, Elon called a timeout and went on a 7-1 run to win the game. Five of Elon’s final six points came from either junior outside hitter Chanelle Smith or junior right-side hitter Danielle Smith.
Senior setter Cali Estes had 31 assists and six blocks in the game. Gravley added nine kills and one block. Danielle Smith contributed nine kills and two service aces.
Waller led South Carolina State with eight kills and ten digs. Sophomore setter Melaine Williams added 15 assists. Bailey had two kills and three service aces.
In Elon’s final game of the weekend against UNCC, the Phoenix went on a crucial 5-1 run after trailing 24-22 in the third set. They never looked back, maintaining the lead throughout the entire fourth set.
A kill by senior middle blocker Taylor Cannon gave the 49ers the 12-8 lead in the first set and Charlotte extended their lead on a 6-2 run, which capped off with a kill by sophomore outside hitter Sarah McDonald. Elon reduced the deficit to 19-17 following a kill by Danielle Smith, but Charlotte closed the set with a kill by senior middle blocker Amanda Videmsek to prevent an Elon comeback.
Charlotte led 8-7 in the second set until a 6-2 run by the Phoenix forced the 49ers to take a timeout. Harris got a kill and a block to put the team up 24-17, and Elon won the set after a ball handling error by junior middle blocker Savannah Gaster.
In the third set, Elon got off to an 11-8 lead, but four straight errors gave the advantage back to Charlotte. The set was tied at 17-all after a block by sophomore middle blocker Catherine Head. Videmsek put the 49ers up 24-22 with a block of her own, but Elon then scored five of the next six points with every single score being assisted by Estes except for one.
Elon didn’t slow down in the fourth set. They scored the first four points and jumped out to a 13-6 lead after a kill by Agae. Charlotte reduced the deficit to three, but Elon went on a 5-2 run to close out the set and the tournament.
Harris led the team in scoring once again with 18.5 points, and added a service ace and three blocks. Gravley had 13 kills and three blocks. Agae tallied 13 kills and three digs.
For Charlotte, Videmsek contributed 13 kills and four blocks. Sophomore setter Britney Leigh Held added 36 assists and four kills. Sophomore libero Michelle Hovey led all players with 17 digs.
Elon starts conference play Friday Sept. 27 at 6:00 p.m. with a match at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga.