After nearly five sets of back-and-forth action filled with strong hits, setters dumping the ball and recurring runs, it all came down to an indecisive whirlwind of confusion at Alumni Gym.
A call reversed by the officials became the winning point for the James Madison University volleyball team against Elon University, a punch to the gut for a Phoenix team upstart off its first Colonial Athletic Association victory. Elon fell 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-12) to the Dukes on Sunday, Nov. 2.
A James Madison attack hit off an Elon player and bounced up into the rafters along the ceiling. Elon sophomore libero Morgan Maner was able to track it down in the last few inches of space near the wall, volleying it back to keep the ball alive for a point that Elon eventually seemingly won on a block by sophomore outside hitter Kayla Agae.
But James Madison challenged the call and the officials convened and ultimately ruled that the ball hit the wall and the wall was out of play — prompting confusion from some players who thought the officials said it was in play.
“The line judges saw it hit the back wall,” Elon coach Mary Tendler said. “They didn’t see it righty away, but evidently on the confronting of them they said it did hit the back wall.”
It made what would already have been a difficult loss that much tougher for Elon, which had slipped past the College of William & Mary in five sets on Friday.
“It is a big pill to swallow on a dry throat,” Agae said. “It hurts. It hurts a lot.”
The fifth set was tied eight times before James Madison took a 13-11 lead on a dump kill from setter Sarah Patterson. Agae then recorded a kill before James Madison’s Janey Goodman had a block to take things to match point.
Agae led all players with 22 kills. Elon junior setter Ana Nicksic had 31 assists, while redshirt-freshman setter Sydel Curry recorded 16. Four Elon players had at least 10 digs, led by Nicksic and sophomore libero Morgan Maner with 15 apiece.
Elon’s toughest task was containing Goodman, who ranks third in the CAA in kills. She finished with 18 kills and a .249 hitting percentage (six errors, 49 attempts).
“We tried to slow her down,” Tendler said. “She’s a player that’s really difficult to defend because she has a lot of different shots. We kept throwing different things at her.”
The Phoenix rebounded with a dominant second set during which it hit .333 (17 kills, five errors, 36 attempts) as a team. Three kills late by Agae helped seal the deal.
"We remained really disciplined through the whole game," Nicksic said.
James Madison jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third set which quickly became 20-9. From there, Elon went on a 9-1 run to cut the deficit to three before the Duke closed it out with a kill and an ace by Meghan Nirski.
Elon broke ahead midway through the fourth set with kills from Agae and junior outside hitter Megan Gravley put the Phoenix up 22-18. James Madison came within one at 24-23, but Agae closed the set with a kill.
Elon falls to 6-22 overall and 1-11 in the CAA. The Phoenix visits the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on Wednesday, Nov. 5.