The tides had begun to turn and the Elon University volleyball team was building a wave filled with momentum.
Six points away from winning the set while holding a 7-point lead seemed manageable.
But then, as it has a number of times recently, the wheels rolled off and the momentum came to a sudden halt.
College of Charleston chipped away with seven straight points and held off Elon to win a long second set, propelling the Cougars to a 3-0 sweep (25-20, 28-26, 25-21) victory over the Phoenix on Sunday, Oct. 20 at Alumni Gym.
Elon, playing its third match in four days, went up 12-7 in the second set as an ace by junior Megan Gravley prompted a Cougars timeout. That lead was upped to 19-12 with three straight points off a Gravley kill, a block from freshman outside hitter Sydney Busa and Catherine Head and another block by Head.
College of Charleston players showed visible frustration, and the Cougars used a timeout. From there, they reeled off a 7-0 run to tie it at 19-19, and found it all the way out until an attack error and a kill by senior middle blocker Catey Warren.
“We get up and get comfortable with being up,” Gravley said. “We need to have a lot of urgency in that situation to make sure they can’t come back. We have to make it very known that they can’t come back.
The third set was fairly close throughout, but College of Charleston tallied 14 kills to help seal the deal. Elon did cut what was a 7-point deficit all the way to 1 with a 7-1 run, which pleased head coach Mary Tendler.
“It would have been easy to come out with no emotion, no fire,” Tendler said. “We came out and played hard. We didn’t win, but we played hard and competed. To me, that was a good thing to see.”
Elon has now lost nine straight matches, eight of those in Colonial Athletic Association competition. The Phoenix is still searching for its first CAA victory.
At the halfway point of the season, that’s left the Phoenix to evaluate its goals from the start of the year.
“We are fully aware,” Tendler said of being winless in the conference. “We’ve gotten a lot of players healthy in the last couple weeks and are gelling together. We’re having, individually, some big nights. We also need more of a team effort moving forward and a little more consistency.”
Sophomore middle blocker Ally Karle led Elon with 11 kills while hitting at a .421 clip (11 kills, 3 errors, 19 attempts). Senior middle blocker Kris Harris hit .583 (7 kills, 0 errors, 12 attempts), and Elon as a team hit .206 (38 kills, 16 errors, 107 attempts).
Redshirt freshman Sydel Curry had 20 assists, while junior setter Ana Nicksic had 10.
College of Charleston hit an astounding .371 (17 kills, 4 errors, 35 attempts) in the first set to rip through the Elon defense. The Cougars led by as much as seven midway through the set. Melissa Morello led the Cougars with 14 kills on the day.
“We let a lot of tips fall without aggressive moves at them,” Tendler said. “By the end, we had people crashing in, trying to get the tips. It’s definitely something that improved throughout the match.”
Elon will travel to Northeastern University Oct. 24 for a 4 p.m. first serve.