The Elon University volleyball team got off to a slow start on Saturday, Oct. 12, inside Alumni Gym and never recovered, as a strong Georgia Southern University attack powered the way to a 3-0 (25-10, 26-24, 25-16) win over the Phoenix.
The visiting Eagles (17-3 overall, 5-1 Southern Conference) jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the first set, causing Elon head coach Mary Tendler to burn a timeout. The Georgia Southern hitters seemed to attack at will, penetrating the Phoenix defense for eleven kills with just three errors. An 8-0 run by the Eagles put them up, 19-7, and they never looked back en route to a dominating win.
But, the Phoenix were not fazed. Elon came out in the second set like a brand new team, and hung with the Eagles throughout a set that featured 14 ties and seven lead changes. Sophomore outside hitter Megan Gravley got things going with a pair of kills to put Elon ahead, 3-0. After going down, 8-7, kills by freshman middle blocker Ally Karle and junior outside hitter Danielle Smith put Elon back in the lead, 9-8.
LAST TIME OUT: Elon sweeps The Citadel
“(Coach Tendler) was just saying that we should get angry and take the aggression out on (Georgia Southern),” Smith said. “That’s exactly what we did. We fought as a team and worked hard for every single point.”
Elon went on a short run, capped by an ace from junior outside hitter Chanelle Smith to take a 14-11 lead, before Georgia Southern fought back to tie things up at 15-15. The teams traded points back and forth before a kill by Georgia Southern senior outside hitter Nicole Jeschelnik and a block from Kym Coley and Katalin Minnerly swung the match in favor of the Eagles for a 26-24 decision.
The Eagles took a 4-0 lead to start the third set before Elon clawed its way back for a 5-5 tie. But the Phoenix could never pull ahead, as the Georgia Southern attack proved to be too strong. An 8-2 Eagles run put the score at 21-13, and the visitors held on for the SoCon win.
“(Georgia Southern) has very aggressive hitters,” Tendler said. “They’re very explosive and take good approaches. They were definitely the better team tonight.”
Georgia Southern recorded just 12 attack errors while hitting .284, compared to Elon which made 21 attack errors and hit .053. Sophomore outside hitter Katie Bange and junior outside hitter Jamie DeRatt led the Eagles with 11 and 10 kills, respectively, while senior outside hitter Cali Estes led Elon with 9 kills. Sophomore setter Ana Nicksic totaled 23 assists for the Phoenix.
Elon falls to 12-10 on the season, 3-3 in the SoCon. They look to bounce back with a road trip to face Samford University on Friday, Oct. 18, and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Saturday, Oct. 19.
“It’s just like how we came from the first set to the second set and turned it around tonight,” Tendler said. “We have to come from a kind of a bad loss here to go into the next match and get a better start and learn from the previous match.”