HICKORY, N.C. – The Anderson volleyball team opened a three-match South Atlantic Conference road swing with a 3-0 (19-25, 23-25, 20-25) setback to Lenoir-Rhyne Tuesday night at Shuford Memorial Gymnasium.
With each team battling for position in the SAC standings as they move more than halfway through the double-round-robin league slate but meeting for the first time this season, Anderson (9-9, 8-5 SAC) suffered its second straight setback, while Lenoir-Rhyne (13-5, 10-4 SAC) took sole possession of second place in the conference standings. The Bears have won three straight and seven of their last eight contests.
AU opened up an early 7-3 advantage in the opening set, as juniors Shannon Gillespie and Hailey Pittman each posted a pair of kills. But the Bears answered with a 12-3 outburst to gain a lead they would not relinquish. Trailing, 19-12, the Trojans rallied to trim the deficit to just three on three occasions, but were unable to get any closer than 21-18 in the final moments, as Lenoir-Rhyne closed the set by scoring four of the final five points of the frame for the set victory.
The Trojans scored the first three points of the second frame, but the homestanding Bears posted an 8-3 surge to claim a 12-7 advantage and the Trojans were unable to recover, as L-R pushed out to an eight-point lead twice, its largest of the set, before Anderson posted a furious rally on the strength of an 11-3 run to battle back and knot the score at 23 apiece, for just the third tie score of the frame. Pittman ignited the run with a kill, while freshman Tinsley Hallman and Meghan Cautero combined for three service aces to fuel the comeback. Gillespie added three kills, but AU was unable to overtake the Bears, as L-R junior outside hitter Haley Rhyne thwarted the comeback by notching back-to-back blocks to clinch the win.
The third frame featured nine ties and four lead changes, as the Trojans snapped an early 6-6 tie to take a 12-8 lead on an error by Rhyne. The Bears countered with a 6-2 run to even the score at 14-14, with the Trojans answering with three straight points, as Pittman knocked down back-to-back kills and Hallman added another ace. The lead was short-lived, however, as L-R chipped away and the score was tied three more times before the Bears snapped a 19-19 deadlock and went on to collect six of the final seven points of the set to secure the win.
Gillespie finished with 15 kills and 11 digs, for her ninth straight double-double and 13th of the season, while Pittman recorded nine kills on the night. Cautero tallied a team-high 25 assists and 12 digs for her fifth double-double of the season, with junior Alix Hooker adding 17 digs. Hallman finished with three service aces and freshman Jessica Harris posted four block assists.
Anderson will get back in action at Lincoln Memorial on Friday, with first-serve versus the Lady Railsplitters slated for 7 p.m. in Harrogate, Tenn. The first meeting of the year between Anderson and LMU saw the Trojans rally to claim a 3-2 (13-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-17, 15-11) win past the Lady Railsplitters at the Abney Athletic Center.