The Elon University volleyball team had its hopes high heading into Alumni Gym Friday night after opening the season with a 13-3 record in nonconference play. But in their first match of Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play, the Phoenix fell to the James Madison University Dukes 3-1.

The Dukes started out hot, jumping out to a 16-6 lead and cruising to a 25-16 win in the first set. JMU also posted two separate five-point runs early in the first set.

“Because it was our first match, we were a little jittery at the start,” said Elon head coach Mary Tendler. “We just came out a little nervous, but I like how we settled down and competed after that. We slowed down as the match went on.”

Elon put up more of a fight in the second frame, as the Dukes only clinched the set 25-23. Though the Phoenix never held a lead, it never fell behind by more than four points.

Elon carried that momentum into the third set, taking a 25-21 victory and earning a fourth set.

According to senior outside hitter Ebony Scott, part of that was due to coach Tendler’s speech between sets — which helped the team handle the Dukes, last year’s CAA regular season champions.

“We talked in the locker room like ‘This is just another team. We’ve got to go out there and just play. Work on your assignments, do what you’re supposed to do,’ and it showed,” Scott said.

Though the Phoenix had regained some composure as the game went on, the Dukes proved too much for Elon, winning the fourth set 25-22.

Scott led Elon with 13 kills, and junior outside hitter Sydney Busa added 12 kills of her own. Sophomore defensive specialist Maddie Jaudon had 11 digs, and junior setter Sydel Curry tallied 34 assists.

After such a strong start, The Phoenix needs to look past the loss to JMU as it takes on other CAA opponents.

“We knew coming into this season, we’re a totally different team than the first two years in the CAA,” Curry said. “We know the teams a lot better this year, so we know what we’re getting each time we face each opponent. Competing with them and being so close is definitely a bright side, even though we lost.”

Elon’s next match is at 2 p.m. Sunday when the Phoenix hosts the College of William & Mary. After Sunday's match, Elon will have four straight road matches.

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