It was an unfamiliar setting for Chelsea Rafetto, despite playing at home in Alumni Gym.
She was making her first start this year for the Elon University volleyball team. She was playing setter, a spot she doesn’t even practice at and hadn’t played at since November 2012. And, she was tasked with playing every point of the match because of a couple Elon injuries.
Yet she excelled at all of those, helping Elon to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-12) victory against North Carolina A&T State University on Wednesday, Sept. 17.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Rafetto, a sophomore who sat out last year because of injury. “I’m not used to it, so I’m a bit tired. It was fun.”
Rafetto tallied 24 assists and 10 digs on the night, along with serving for two aces and even recording two kills.
“I was ecstatic about Chelsea’s play,” sophomore libero Morgan Maner said. “She stepped on the court really confident, and that showed to everyone else on the team.”
Rafetto said she found out she was starting Wednesday afternoon upon receiving a text from junior setter Ana Nicksic, who sat out because of an injury. Redshirt-freshman setter Sydel Curry did not play either.
“She was confident and put up some good balls,” Elon head coach Mary Tendler said. “That’s hard to do because she hasn’t set a whole lot. She came in and did well.”
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Elon was also without junior outside hitter Megan Gravley, who missed a few games over the weekend because of a foot injury. There were some different lineup combinations on the floor, but Elon adjusted well — much thanks to Rafetto and her sets.
“Everyone on the team thinks she has good, natural hands,” junior middle blocker Catherine Head said. “We were all telling her that she can set the ball and we’ll have no idea where it’s going. She does a very good job of that. She did a good job of stepping into that position.”
Elon, coming off three losses at a tournament hosted by Campbell University last weekend, had a motto of “adapt and overcome” against N.C. A&T. The Phoenix moved past two close sets to speed away in the last one.
Head said that serve / receive was a main focus coming in, and that ended up being a critical part of the game. Elon mixed in a handful of short serves to keep N.C. A&T off-balanced. The Aggies committed seven service errors of their own.
“That was the best serving we’ve done all year,” Tendler said.
N.C. A&T led early on in the first set before some errors helped Elon tie it up at 8-8. Elon pulled ahead to a 20-14 lead after more Aggies errors and kills from senior outside hitter Danielle Smith and freshman outside hitter Sydney Busa. Kills from Head and sophomore outside hitter Kayla Agae down the stretch pushed Elon through.
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In the second set, the teams were neck and neck early before Elon pulled to a 16-14 lead on a Smith kill, but N.C. A&T went on a 6-2 run that forced an Elon timeout. But with the help of five straight N.C. A&T errors to end the set, Elon was able to win.
Elon jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the third set and never looked back. The Aggies hit -.037 (23 kills, 27 errors, 107 attempts) as a team.
“We had a big speech about momentum and getting the energy going,” Head said. “Tonight was a good show of starting out strong and keeping our side under control.”
Agae led Elon with 10 kills while also posting 10 digs. Maner had 15 digs.
The Phoenix now sits at 4-7 on the year, and will compete in a tournament at Wake Forest University this weekend.