The Elon University volleyball team fell to host University of Central Florida 3-0 (25-11, 25-13, 25-20), then later lost to Stephen F. Austin University 3-2 (25-20, 24-26, 24-26, 25-18, 10-15) at the UCF Classic in Orlando, Fla. Friday Sept. 7. The weekend didn’t get much better Sept. 7, as the Phoenix dropped their final match of the weekend 3-2 (25-16, 23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 11-15) to Georgia Washington University.
Versus UCF, the Phoenix trailed 12-9 in the first set after an attack error by redshirt junior hitter Loren Cory, but UCF went on a 13-2 run with three straight kills by freshman outside hitter Taylor Gallart to win the set. Elon closed the gap in the third set after a kill by freshman middle blocker Ally Karle to make it 21-19, but Cory scored three of the final five points to get UCF the win.
Junior middle blocker Kris Harris led the Phoenix with eight kills and added one service ace and one block. Karle had seven kills and no errors. Sophomore setter Ana Nicksic led the team in assists with 14. Freshman defensive specialist Morgan Maner and senior defensive specialist Maggie Reichard had seven and six digs, respectively.
For UCF, Gallart stole the show with 14 kills and one service ace. Junior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden added eight kills and four blocks. Redshirt junior setter Marie Reiterova had 35 assists, which was tops for all players. Junior libero Jade Hayes contributed nine digs.
In the first set, UCF grabbed an early 8-3 lead with three of the points coming off Elon attack errors. Three more errors helped the Knights extend their lead to 19-9, until a kill by sophomore outside hitter Megan Gravley stopped the run.
UCF dominated the second set, posting a .370 hitting percentage compared to Elon’s -.069. The Phoenix stayed right with the Knights in the third set with three points by Harris helping Elon tie it at 8-all. Elon couldn’t overcome nine total errors in the set, however, and UFC survived by five points.
Junior outside hitter Chanelle Smith led all players with 17 kills and had a .324 hitting percentage. Nicksic led the team with 35 assists and three service aces. Harris added 12 kills and seven blocks.
For the Ladyjacks, junior outside hitter Jill Ivy and junior setter Paige Holland had 10 kills each. Holland also led the team with 38 assists and a .435 hitting percentage. Sophomore defensive specialist OJ Olson had 26 digs and no errors.
The first set was dominated by service points, as 11 were obtained through either service errors or aces. Smith and Harris helped the Phoenix come back from an early 9-5 deficit, and the set was tightly contested until a service ace by Smith extended the Elon lead to 22-17.
The Phoenix were in a 6-1 hole to start the second set, but an 8-3 run, capped off by a Karle kill, helped Elon tie it at 9-all. A service ace by Holland gave Stephen F. Austin a 14-10 lead until senior right side hitter Cali Estes scored four of the next seven Phoenix points, tying the game at 17. A block by freshman middle blocker Justice Walker and sophomore outside hitter Keeley Kainer gave the Ladyjacks the set win.
Stephen F. Austin got off to a 12-6 start in the third set after freshman defensive specialist Laiken Britt’s second service ace of the game. Smith gave the Phoenix a huge boost by recording three straight kills to tie the game at 15. The Ladyjacks inched out to a 21-17 lead after a kill by Holland from freshman outside hitter Kaitlyn Granger. Elon went on a 5-1 run to tie the game again, but senior middle blocker Leslie Jackson tallied two kills afterward to help Stephen F. Austin pull away.
In the fourth set, Elon grabbed a 14-7 lead with seven of those points coming from the Smith sisters, Danielle and Chanelle. Three errors by the Phoenix helped Stephen F. Austin get within three points. The Ladyjacks then started making errors of their own, giving Elon a 24-16 advantage. Chanelle Smith closed out the set with a kill, set up by Nicksic.
In Elon’s first fifth set of the season, Stephen F. Austin maintained the lead throughout. The Phoenix trailed only 11-10 after an attack error by Jackson. The Ladyjacks then scored the last four points to win the game, capped off by a Kainer kill.
In the final match of the weekend Saturday against George Washington, Chanelle Smith led Elon with 15 kills and posted nine digs. Gravley added 15 kills and had a .220 hitting percentage. Harris had 11 kills and two blocks. Sophomore setter Ana Nicksic and senior right side hitter Cali Estes tallied 31 and 13 assists, respectively.
For George Washington, senior outside hitter Rachael Goss had 14 kills and a service ace. Freshman outside hitter Loren Williams added 13 kills. Sophomore defensive specialist Maddy Doyle led the team with 20 digs.
The first set was a back-and-forth affair early, and Elon gained a 10-8 advantage after George Washington’s fifth error of the set. Loren Williams’ third kill tied the game at 12, but then the Phoenix went on a 6-0 run, with three points coming off of Harris service aces. Four errors by George Washington helped the Phoenix maintain the lead and win the set.
Gravley set the tone early for Elon in the second set, getting a kill and a block in succession to give the Phoenix a 15-12 lead. George Washington grabbed its first lead of the set after two straight kills by Goss made it 20-19. A kill by Chanelle Smith helped Elon inch ahead by two, but George Washington then scored the next four points — two by freshman middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu — to get the set win.
In the third set, Elon separated itself 10-4 after four George Washington errors. Two errors by Harris helped the Colonials close within two points. The Phoenix responded by scoring six straight to grab an 18-10 lead. Chanelle Smith tallied two kills and one block during the run, and scored three more afterward to help Elon close out the set.
A kill by Osuchukwu gave George Washington a 12-9 lead in the fourth set, but Gravley’s sixth kill of the set later on tied the game at 19. However, Osuchukwu scored two late points to give the Colonials the set win.
In Elon’s second straight five-set match, the Phoenix led 8-6 after a block by Maggie Reichard. George Washington then went on a 9-3 run, assisted by three Elon errors and two service aces by Doyle. A kill by Williams ended the set and the match.
The Phoenix travel to High Point next to face the Panthers Tuesday Sept. 10 at 7:00 p.m.