DURHAM, N.C. – The Elon volleyball team struggled today, August 24, as it opened up the season in the Hilton RTP/NCCU Tournament. The Phoenix battled in a hard fought five-set match against Hampton, falling 3-2 (16-25, 25-23, 25-23, 24-26, 9-15), and then struggled against Bradley as the maroon and gold dropped its second match of the day, 3-0 (22-25, 12-25, 16-25).
“It felt really good to play against other teams today and get the season underway,” said Elon head coach Mary Tendler. “We made some really nice plays today. We just didn’t string enough of those good plays together to form runs. Offensively we were better than I expected but we struggled defensively. We look forward to playing better tomorrow.”
Junior Maggie Reichard started the match off strong against Hampton with an ace as Elon took the very early 1-0 lead. From there, the Pirates took over, causing Elon to call its first timeout down 10-5. Out of the timeout, sophomore Chanelle Smith recorded a kill to pull Elon within four but Hampton then pulled away with a 20-13 lead. The Phoenix was not able to catch up as the Pirates took the first set, 25-16.
In the second set, the Pirates took a strong 6-1 lead out of the gate, but the Phoenix used a 7-1 run, which included kills by C. Smith, sophomore Danielle Smith and freshman Megan Gravley, to take a one-point lead, 8-7. The set went back and forth until Hampton scored three straight for a 17-14 lead and caused the maroon and gold to use its first timeout. Elon then scored the next three with an ace from senior Ali Deatsch and a kill by C. Smith to tie the set at 17-all. With the set still tied, 23-23, the Phoenix scored the next two points off Hampton errors to win the set, 25-23, and tie the match.
Hampton continued its strong opening play with a 6-1 lead in the third set. Elon then went on a two-point run to cut the deficit to four, 8-4, before the Pirates scored three straight to make it 11-4 and force a Phoenix timeout. Out of the timeout, the maroon and gold went on a six-point run off kills from Gravley and senior Celia Rose Eddy, a strong defensive block and an ace by C. Smith to pull within one, 11-10. After a Pirate timeout, the Phoenix continued its run with three straight, including another ace by C. Smith, for a two-point lead, 13-11. After Hampton tied the set, 15-all, a kill by D. Smith helped Elon to a 17-15 lead, With the Phoenix leading, 20-17, the Pirates came back to tie the set at 22. An ace by Eddy then put the maroon and gold up one and helped the Phoenix to another 25-23 set win.
After the Pirates took a 10-6 lead to start the fourth set, a kill by Gravley tied the set at 13. Hampton was able to take a two-point lead, 21-19, and force an Elon timeout. With the set at tied at 22-all, the Pirates scored the next two to earn set point, 24-22. Elon came back to score two straight points and keep the set alive, but Hampton followed with the last two points to win, 26-24, and send the match into a deciding fifth set.
A kill by Gravley in the fifth set pulled the Phoenix within one, 6-5, before the Pirates went on a 4-1 run for a 10-6 lead. After a kill by D. Smith made it an 11-8 set in favor in of Hampton, the Pirates scored three straight to receive match point, 14-8. Hampton would go on to win the set, 15-9, and the match, 3-2.
Elon was led by Gravley, who recorded 16 kills, while D. Smith and C. Smith and Eddy followed with 12, 11 and 10 kills respectively. On defense, Deatsch led all players with 24 digs. C. Smith also recorded four aces and 11 digs to record her first double-double of the season.
For the Pirates, sophomore Krista Kraskura recorded an impressive 30 kills off 58 attempts with five errors to hit .431.
Down by three in the first set against Bradley, 12-9, two kills by sophomore Kris Harris and a block by Harris and freshman Chelsea Rafetto helped the Phoenix tie the set at 13-all. After the Braves took a 17-14 lead and forced Elon to take its first timeout, a kill by D. Smith helped cut the Phoenix deficit to one, 18-17. Down three, 23-20, another ace by C. Smith pull the maroon and gold within two, but Bradley was able to hang on for the 25-22 first-set win.
The Braves were able to take a strong lead early in the second set off a six-point run that put them up by seven, 10-4. Bradley continued with strong hitting and defense to take the set victory, 25-12.
Kills by senior Allison Johnson and Eddy helped keep the Phoenix in the third set early. However, a span of four straight points by Bradley helped the Braves to a 14-6 lead and forced Elon’s first timeout. Down 18-8, the maroon and gold went on a 3-1 run to cut the deficit to eight, 19-11. However, the Phoenix was not able to complete the full comeback and fell in the third and final set, 25-16.
Eddy led the maroon and gold on offense, hitting .778 after seven kills off nine attempts and no errors. Gravley also recorded seven kills, while D. Smith finished with six.
Elon will resume play in the Hilton RTP/NCCU Tournament tomorrow, August 25, with a 2:30 p.m. match against Liberty.