GREENSBORO — A momentum shift midway through the match once again proved to be Elon University’s undoing.
The Phoenix volleyball team fell into a lull to start the second set in a 3-0 (25-23, 25-13, 25-19) loss to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on Tuesday night in Fleming Gym.
UNCG, which hit .308 (46 kills, 13 assists, 107 attempts) as a team, stole all the momentum early in the second set, racing out to leads of 7-2 and 12-3, both of which prompted Elon timeouts.
“They put a lot more pressure on us serving,” Elon head coach Mary Tendler said. “We were out of system quite a bit. They definitely seemed to pick it up and we didn’t respond as quickly as I would have liked.”
It was a recurring theme during Elon’s weekend Colonial Athletic Association matches against James Madison University and the College of William & Mary. The Phoenix was competitive early, but a mid-match momentum shift left it in the dust.
“It’s always in the middle we get in that little rut,” Elon freshman outside hitter Sydney Busa said.
Junior outside hitter Megan Gravley agreed: “We start out super-strong, then get in that little hole, then the hole would get bigger. No matter how big they are, it’s just really hard to get out of them.”
Elon led for much of the first set, with three kills from junior middle blocker Catherine Head and four team blocks put the Phoenix ahead 15-10.
UNCG started crawling back, and a long rally — aided by a Spartans player saving a ball near the stands — cut the deficit to 19-18 and began to swing the momentum toward the Spartans. Kills from Vicky Harley down the stretch sealed it.
“Them taking that first set away from us was kind of a crusher for us,” Tendler said. “We need to respond to that a little bit better.”
Elon freshman middle blocker Michelle Klein and redshirt freshman setter Sydel Curry entered the match late in the second set and provided a bit of a boost, with Klein tallying three kills and Curry three assists in the second set.
That carried over to the third, where the teams traded points until the Spartans broke a 16-16 tie with an 8-3 run to end the match.
“We started off really well in the third set,” Tendler said. “We struggled defensively down at the end. I’m glad we switched gears and got the momentum back on our side and started playing well.
“I liked how we started (the match), and I liked how we ended.”
Busa, who earned Co-CAA Rookie of the Week honors this week, led Elon with 10 kills. Curry had 13 assists, while senior libero Chanelle Smith had 14 digs.
The match renewed Elon’s Southern Conference rivalry with UNCG, which Gravley said she was happy about.
“I absolutely love playing here because of that, because of the band,” Gravley said. “They have a really great atmosphere. I remember that from playing in SoCon. We all can concur that it’s really fun to come back here and play again.”
Elon falls to 5-15 on the season.
SERVICE POINTS: … It was the second time Elon has faced a former SoCon opponent since joining the CAA this year. The Phoenix lost to Western Carolina University Sept. 19. … Junior setter Ana Nicksic played for the first time since Sept. 13. She recorded 13 assists. … Sophomore libero Morgan Maner, who did not make the weekend CAA road trip, was in attendance but not in uniform. Junior setter Chelsea Rafetto was not at the game. … Elon returns to CAA play this Saturday at home when the University of North Carolina at Wilmington visits Alumni Gym.