ELON, N.C. – Friday, Sept. 13, was not bad luck for the Elon volleyball team as the Phoenix dominated in a final fifth set to claim a 3-2 (25-22, 19-25, 25-23, 17-25, 15-2) victory over Gardner-Webb in the first night of the Elon Phoenix Classic.
“It felt really good to be playing back home in Alumni Gym and to win a five-set match” said Elon head coach Mary Tendler. “We played against a very quick offensive team in Gardner-Webb and we were able to slow them down. The Bulldogs tested us but I was proud how we were able to fight back we needed to. It took a total team effort tonight to get the win.”
Sophomore Megan Gravley posted a match-high 13 kills, while junior Danielle Smith finished with eight. Both junior Kris Harris and senior Cali Estes recorded seven kills on the night.
On defense, Harris tallied five blocks with Estes finishing with four. Freshman Morgan Maner tallied 12 digs to lead the team in passing.
A kill by Estes in the first set sparked a 6-0 run for the Phoenix to take a seven-point lead, 14-7. The Runnin’ Bulldogs closed the gap to one, 20-19, before an ace and kill by Chanelle Smith helped close out the set for a 25-22 Elon win.
Gardner-Webb claimed a 12-7 advantage in the second set, but the serve of Harris helped the maroon and gold tie the score and take the lead by one, 15-14. The Runnin’ Bulldogs managed a 10-1 run to take set point and then won the set, 25-19, to tie the match at one-all.
Elon found itself in a 6-2 hole early in the third set, forcing an early timeout, before rallying to tie the score at 10-all off kills by D. Smith and Kayla Agae. The Phoenix then grabbed a three-point lead, 15-12, after a kill by Catherine Head. The set remained close with Elon never claiming more than a two-point edge, yet, the Phoenix never gave up the lead and used a kill by Gravley to take a 25-23 victory.
In the fourth set, Gardnr-Webb took control early and did not let the lead slip. Elon cut the deficit to three, 14-11, after a block by Harris, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs quickly extended its advantage to five. GWU would claim a 25-17 win and force a fifth and final set.
It was all Elon in the fifth set as the Phoenix hit .438 while holding the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a -.294 attack percentage. Off the serve of Agae, the maroon and gold took a 10-0 lead after kills by Harris, Gravley, Ana Nicksic and two by Estes. The Phoenix closed out the set on a 5-1 run, forcing four GWU errors, to win 15-2 and the match, 3-2.
The Elon Phoenix Classic will continue tomorrow, Sept. 14, as the maroon and gold take on North Carolina Central at 12:30 p.m. and East Carolina in the finale at 7 p.m.