DURHAM — The few players Elon University had were able to gel together as a lineup when it mattered most.
Playing with just seven players because of continued injuries, Elon swept North Carolina Central University (25-21, 28-26, 26-24) on Sept. 23 at McDougald-McLendon Gym, putting finishing touches on three sets that could have swung in either favor.
NC Central tied it at 24-24, but Elon came through with kills by junior setter Chelsea Rafetto and sophomore middle blocker Ally Karle.
“Whether we started out in a slump or not, we just found the energy and the fire to come back,” Karle said.
Elon was without senior outside hitter Danielle Smith, junior outside hitter Megan Gravley, junior middle blocker Catherine Head, junior setter Ana Nicksic, sophomore outside hitter Kayla Agae and redshirt freshman Sydel Curry because of injuries.
This left Elon short on the attack, where Karle stepped up by hammering down a game-high 13 kills. Freshman outside hitter Sydney Busa had 11 kills, while senior outside hitter Chanelle Smith finished with 10 kills and 18 digs.
“We had players that stepped up and made plays and found a way to win. That was really impressive to me tonight,” Elon head coach Mary Tendler said.
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Elon looked poised to close the second set when it went up 24-21 on a block from Karle and senior middle blocker Kris Harris. The Phoenix had set point a total of six times before finally fending off the Eagles.
NC Central, which entered the game 0-15 with victories in just two sets all year, clawed back from a 3-0 deficit in the first set to take a 5-4 and ultimately an 11-7 lead via five aces. Elon responded with kills from Chanelle Smith, Busa, Karle and freshman middle blocker Michelle Klein to tie it up at 14-14 and then took a 19-16 lead on a block from Harris and Busa. The Eagles fought back to take a 20-19 lead, but blocks from Busa and Klein and two kills each from Busa and Chanelle Smith swung the set to Elon.
It was the serving of NC Central which perplexed Elon the most, as the Eagles tallied nine aces on the night — six in the first set.
Rafetto finished with 35 assists and 13 digs. Sophomore libero Morgan Maner had 16 digs.
Senior outside hitter Da’Sha Brown led NC Central with 12 kills, while junior libero Marylin Sherbondy had 13 digs and freshman setter Paige Phillips had 26 assists.
Elon sits at 5-10 entering its first Colonial Athletic Association contest ever — a home contest against Hofstra University at 7 p.m. Friday. As for the key entering conference play, Karle kept it simple.
“I don’t think we have one area that’s significantly weaker than another. We just need all of our cylinders rolling together,” she said.