ATLANTA – College of Charleston needed all of five sets to put away former SoCon foe Chattanooga in the opening match of the 2013 season, but eventually won 3-2 (25-14, 21-25, 25-12, 25-27, 15-12) in Georgia Tech Invitational play from O’Keefe Gymnasium.
The Cougars (1-0) dominated in the first and third sets, but fell behind early in the fourth set and could not come all the way back. With the fifth set tied at 12, CofC reeled off the final three points to win the match in heart-racing fashion. Charleston hit .292 as a team, outdug the Mocs (0-1), 83-58, and held a 12-3 advantage in total blocks.
Four different Cougars tallied double figures in kills, led by Darcy Dorton’s 15-kill performance. The preseason CAA Player of the Year was just one dig away from her career high, tallying 21 digs for her first double-double of the season.
Sophomore Melissa Morello compiled 14 kills and 17 digs to go along with four blocks, hitting .345. South Carolina transfer Cara Howley had a sparkling debut performance with 13 kills and a .417 hitting percentage. Sloane White notched 12 kills, including the match-winner, and hit .294.
At the net, seniors Emily Neideffer and Kerstin Koehler played well to land quick-hitting kills and make momentum-changing blocks. Neideffer finished with nine kills and three blocks while Koehler tallied five blocks and six kills.
Junior Andi Zbojniewicz racked up 14 digs in her debut as the team’s new libero. Kallie McKown and Taeler Davis split time at setter with McKown making 28 assists and Davis gathering 23. Freshman Lexi Rhein came in late and made six assists in her debut in the CofC maroon.
Chattanooga was led by Briana Reid’s 15 kills and 11 digs, the only Moc to record a double-double. Annie Davenport had 12 kills and made six service aces which helped keep the Mocs in the match.
College of Charleston jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first set with a balanced attack from each pin through to the middle, hitting .484 as a team. Six different players finished with multiple kills in the set, led by Morello’s five kills and four digs. Zbojniewicz showed her prowess with a nifty one-handed dig on a point-blank middle attack that set up a Morello kill on the outside. CofC eventually led 20-12 and went on to win the set, 25-14.
The Mocs responded with energetic and error-free play in the second set. Chattanooga opened an 8-4 bolstered by three kills from Reid. Charleston responded with a 5-1 run to tie the game at nine and neither team could pull away through the middle points, playing to a 20-20 tie. The Mocs used a CofC attack error and two aces that sandwiched a Cougar double touch to run to a 25-21 set victory. Charleston cooled off in hitting efficiency, posting a .212 mark in the second set by committing six errors.
Charleston never allowed the Mocs to threaten in the third set, tallying five blocks and holding Chattanooga to a .000 hitting percentage. The Cougars led 10-3 early on, and then 19-6 seemingly moments later. Chattanooga reeled off several points late to bring the final set score to 25-12. Morello posted four kills and four digs in the game, while Koehler tallied four blocks, including big solo stuff at the net to end a long rally late.
With the momentum of the match on their side, the Cougars started slow in the fourth set, building tension with each point as Chattanooga ran to a 12-0 lead. However, kills from Dorton and White turned frustration into loose play and the Cougars started mounting a massive run. CofC came all the way back to trail by one at 19-18, but then Chattanooga looked to finish the set with a 4-1 run. Trailing 23-19, Charleston came back yet again with rousing kills from Dorton and sent the set to extra points. Two CofC setting errors would be the Cougars undoing and the massive comeback could not come to fruition with Chattanooga winning, 27-25, and forcing a fifth set.
Chattanooga built a 7-4 lead in the fifth set but Neideffer landed two quick kills and Reid missed on a swing from UTC to tie it at seven. The teams traded points to a 12-12 tie, but White and Neideffer finished off the match with kills and CofC took a 15-12 victory in the fifth set.
College of Charleston will have a quick turnaround before playing Florida A&M (0-1) at 4:30 p.m. at O’Keefe Gymnasium in match three of the Georgia Tech Invitational. Live stats are available at WramblinWreck.com and fans can follow on Twitter (@CofCVolleyball).