The Crusader volleyball dropped two close games at Southern Wesleyan University on Saturday, Sept. 13, dropping a close match to Southern Wesleyan, 26-24, 14-25, 19-25, and 17-25.
Charlotte Swain (SO Woodruff, SC) led the Crusaders as they jumped out to an quick start and a strong victory in game one. “We had a great matchup with Charlotte and she was able to hit over SWU’s shorter middle in the first game,” head coach Lauren Axson said. “I was pleased that we were able to recognize that mismatch and use it to our advantage.” “It was fun, “said Swain. “Every time [their middle] came to the front row Gabby (McKinley) would say, ‘All 3’s Charlotte,’ and I would hit right over her.” The Crusaders lost momentum in the second set, though, falling to the Warriors 14-25. They never regained control, falling in the next two sets as well. McKinley led the Crusaders with 32 assists, while Kindal Farver led the defense with 22 digs. Kaitlyn Pierce and Brittany Rivera stepped it up in the middle recording nine and eight kills respectively and combining for nine total blocks.
The Crusaders were also very competitive against Brevard, but still came up short, losing in four sets. “That game was just fun and so exciting,” said Swain. “I remember in the huddles between games, everyone was saying, ‘This is fun!’” The Crusaders played perhaps their best match of the year against a strong Brevard team. “Brevard had some very strong hitters and their setter is one of the best I’ve seen, “said Coach Axson. “We stepped it up and played intense ball.” The Crusaders fell 25-21 in the first game, struggling to defend against the setter dumps. In game two, the Crusaders made the adjustment and pulled out a 26-24 win. “Lauren Hawkins and Amanda Bouchillon did a good job of adapting their defense to stop their setter from dumping the ball over the net. Kindal Farver came in and served very strong and really took them out of their hitting game,” Axson added. The Crusaders fell in a tight third set 25 -23. Pierce and Rivera each had seven kills for the match, but more importantly, they combined for seven blocks and their approaches opened up the offense. Caitlin Cunniff also came on strong with seven kills. “Caitlin is settling down and learning to play smart,” Axson noted. “She’s a quiet player, but will sneak in there with a strong left handed attack from the right side. Brittany and Kaitlyn did an outstanding job of drawing the block, and even with Brevard’s experience, they still created several one on one opportunities for our outsides and right sides.” NGU fought hard in game four, coming back from a 24-17 deficit to lose 25-21. “I’m so proud of the girls,” Axson said. “We are playing well beyond the level at which we played last year. Right now, they are fun to coach because I can tell them strategy, and they will go out and execute. Plus, they are fighting hard for every point. By the time we got to the fourth set against Brevard, they had played eight straight sets, but you couldn’t tell. They still fought right up until the end, breaking serve four times at match point. You can’t ask for much more than that.” Gabby McKinley had 39 assists and 18 digs, Charlotte Swain had 17 kills, and Amanda Bouchillon had five kills and 21 digs against Brevard.
The next home match for spikers is Tuesday, Sept. 23 against Southern Wesleyan at 7:00 p.m.