ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Elon volleyball team (0-1) started off strong against the Flames of Illinois-Chicago (1-0), claiming the first set but eventually falling 3-1 (28-26, 18-25, 20-25, 21-25) today, Aug. 30, in the first match of the Kristen Dickmann Invitational hosted by Navy.
“The first set was a great way to start our season,” said Elon head coach Mary Tendler. “We executed very well on both sides of the ball and held off UIC at the end. Unfortunately, we weren’t consistent throughout the whole match. I was very happy with our blocking and our offensive efforts. We have a very balanced team and that’s going to pay off this season.”
Junior Kris Harris put together a match-high seven blocks, 10 kills and two aces to stand out for the Phoenix on the day. Sophomore Megan Gravley also tallied 10 kills in the match, while senior Cali Estes finished with nine.
On defense, the Phoenix out-blocked the Flames, 15-7, as eight players wearing the maroon and gold recorded blocks. Freshman Morgan Maner finished with 12 digs in her first match for Elon.
The Phoenix started the first set off strong after a block by Estes and Catherine Head put the maroon and gold up 4-1. With the score tied at six-all, a kill by Gravley, block by Gravley and Harris and an ace by Maner capped a 4-0 run, forcing a UIC timeout. The Flames pulled even at 15 before two kills by Gravley, a block by Harris and Gravley and an ace by Ana Nicksic gave Elon a 19-16 advantage. Three straight kills by Harris gave the Phoenix a five-point edge, 22-17, but UIC managed to grab set point first, 24-23, after a 6-2 run. A block and kill by Ally Karle gave the Phoenix the advantage 25-24 before a kill by Estes finally sealed the first-set win for Elon, 28-26.
The Flames had the upper hand in the second set, taking a nine-point lead, 17-8. The Phoenix rallied with four straight points off kills by Gravley, Harris and Kayla Agae and an ace by Maggie Reichard to pull within in five, 17-12. However, UIC was able to maintain its advantage and even the match after a 25-18 win.
In the third set, UIC claimed an early 10-6 lead before the Phoenix scored three straight with the help of kills by Agae and Danielle Smith to pull within one 10-9. The maroon and gold kept the differential to one after a kill by Nicksic and a block by Harris and Gravley made the score 14-13 in favor of the Flames. After UIC went up by six, 19-13, and forced an Elon timeout, the Phoenix pulled back within three, 16-13, after a kill by Gravley and forced mistakes by the Flames. UIC grabbed set point, 24-17, but Elon would not back down easily taking the next three points off three blocks by D. Smith, Karle and Agae. The Flames would claim the set, 25-20, to take a 2-1 match lead.
Kills by Estes, Gravley, D. Smith and an ace by Maner helped the Phoenix to an 8-5 edge early in the fourth set. The Flames rallied back and eventually held a 20-15 advantage before a 3-1 run off kills by Harris, Nicksic and Estes cut the deficit to three, 21-18, forcing a UIC timeout. The Flames earned set point, 24-18, but once again the Phoenix held on with kills by Harris and Karle and an ace by Harris to make it 24-21. UIC closed out the set and the match on the next play to claim a 25-21 final-set win.
The Phoenix will return to action in the Kristen Dickmann Invitational tomorrow, Aug. 31, when it takes on UNC Wilmington at 1 p.m. and host Navy at 6 p.m.