With sweat dripping off her face and a towel over her shoulder, Kayla Agae summed up the volleyball game she just played in two oh-so-accurate words.
“Exhilarating, exhausting,” the sophomore outside hitter said.
Elon jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fifth set, forcing a High Point timeout. The message, according to Elon coach Mary Tendler, was to “stay in the moment.”
“We were two really even teams tonight,” Tendler said.
The Panthers clawed back to tie it at 5-5 and 6-6 before moving to a 9-7 lead. That soon became a 9-9 tie, and after a kill from Elon outside hitter Danielle Smith, the Phoenix was back in the lead.
The set was tied once again at 12-12 before a service error and kills from freshman Sydney Busa and junior Megan Gravley pushed Elon to the 15-13 triumph.
“It was a good fight between each other,” Agae said. “We wanted to be gritty.”
It painted many of the same images seen at last year’s meeting of the schools — a five-set thriller won by High Point.
“We had last year in our brain the whole time,” Gravley said. “We wanted redemption in this match.”
Gravley and Busa led Elon with 12 kills each. Junior setter Ana Nicksic had 26 assists, while redshirt freshman setter Sydel Curry had 17. Curry also had 10 digs, while sophomore libero Morgan Maner had 15.
For High Point, senior right side Kristin Heldt registered 16 kills, sophomore outside hitter Megan Kennedy had 15 and senior outside hitter Chelsea Davis had 14. Four players had at least 11 digs.
It was the trio of Heldt, Kennedy and Davis that carried High Point in the first set, one the Panthers controlled from the onset, making easy work of Elon.
“We slowed them down defensively a lot better,” Tendler said. “We had better block setups and were able to defend them. In the first set, they seemed to hit anything they wanted, like we weren’t even there. We slowed their offense down.”
That carried to the third set, where senior middle blocker Kris Harris and sophomore middle blocker Ally Karle supplied the spark necessary in the middle to not only control High Point’s defense, but fuel Elon’s offense as well.
The Panthers regained some of their mojo in the fourth, scoring the final eight points on a service run by junior libero Wavie Chin.
Karle and Gravley helped light the flame for Elon at the start of the fifth.
“We couldn’t think about losing that last set,” Smith said. “Every point we were playing like it was match point. We didn’t give up on the ball.”
It was the third five-set match for Elon in its last four games after beating Kennesaw State University and falling to the University of North Carolina at Asheville over the weekend.
“We’re getting some good experience,” Tendler said.