CHARLESTON, S.C. – SMU’s defense stepped up to slow down College of Charleston in the final three sets and the Mustangs took a 3-1 (22-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-17) victory in the nightcap of the first day of the CofC Holiday Inn Classic.
College of Charleston (9-3) hit for a .333 mark with 19 kills in the first set, but finished with a .176 overall attacking mark after the Mustangs (7-4) were able to slow down CofC with good blocking and good digging.
SMU libero Morgan Heise led all defenders with 18 digs as the Mustangs finished with 57, the most of any CofC opponent in less than five sets this year. Caroline Young was strong for SMU with 19 kills and nine digs, while Maddie Lozano added 13 kills and three blocks.
College of Charleston saw valiant efforts from Emily Neideffer and Sloane White who finished with 11 kills and 10 kills, respectively. Neideffer also tied her career high with seven blocks, but it wasn’t enough to key a CofC victory. Melissa Morello had nine kills, and Kerstin Koehler posted eight kills and a .615 attacking percentage.
The first set was back and forth, featuring nine ties and four lead changes as neither team could pull away. With the score tied at 20, CofC used a kill from Darcy Dorton and block from Neideffer and Melissa Morello to build a two-point lead. Another kill from Morello gave the Cougars set point and Neideffer and Cara Howley ended the set dramatically with a block, 25-22.
SMU built an early lead in the second set, but CofC clawed back to within 10-8 after consecutive errors from Young. But the Mustangs were running again and eventually built a 19-11 lead after an ace and kill from Lozano. The Cougars could not recover and SMU won the set, 25-15.
With the match lead on the line, the third set was played with ferocity and passion on both sides. Southern Methodist ran to a 9-4 line, but the Cougars roared back with six of the next seven points to tie it at 10. Charleston rallied the crowd with a mini-run to go up 20-17 off a Neideffer kill, but the Mustangs would not be denied, scoring seven of the next eight points with three CofC errors to force set point. A late block from Koehler and Morello was not enough and the Mustangs won, 25-22.
Charleston fell behind again in the fourth set, trailing 4-1 and 11-6. SMU was determined to not let the Cougars come back this time and sided out at a rate of 83 percent and making three blocks in the fourth set. Charleston’s offense and fan base were tested by several bang-bang plays, and the Mustangs took advantage late, winning the clinching set, 25-17.
CofC will play two matches on Saturday, starting with a 2 p.m. bout with UNC Asheville and then concluding at 7:30 p.m. against Ball State.