By Justin Caudell
Despite a valiant effort, Western Carolina started the 2008 volleyball season with two losses on the road in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday, Aug. 29.
They first fell to Stephen F. Austin 3 – 0 (15 – 25, 19 – 25, 18 – 25) and then 3 – 0 (13 – 25, 9 – 25, 25 – 27) to 13 ranked Wisconsin to begin play in the Kentucky Classic.
Freshman Brittany Lysik led the Lady Catamounts’ attack with 11 kills in the match against Stephen F. Austin and freshman Liz Rondone had 15 digs. Junior setter Katie Hennesseey had 14 assists.
The team struggled with Wisconsin in the first match of the Kentucky Classic, combining to only score 22 points in the first two games. But WCU rallied to nearly force a fourth game against the Badgers in the third set as Western jumped out to an early 12 -8 lead.
The Catamounts had an advantage over Wisconsin by three or four points most of the way, including at 23 – 19. However, Allison Wack posted a kill and a service ace for the Badgers to knot the game at 23. Western served for set point at 25 – 24, but a Morgan Salow kill evened the score at 25. Consecutive kills by the Badgers surged Wisconsin ahead for the set and an eventual victory.
Lysik and Rondone shined for the Catamounts in the loss with nine kills and 16 digs respectively. Hennessey had 17 assists.
Western continued competition in the Kentucky Classic on Saturday, Aug. 30 with games against host Kentucky and Pittsburgh.
The Catamounts won their first game of the season in a tight match against Pittsburgh, although losing the match 3 – 1 (24 – 26, 25 – 23, 22 – 25, 19 – 25).
“We faced a high-level of competition this week,” said head coach Stephanie Dragan. “There is a lot of promise for this team, we proved we can compete.”
In game one against Pittsburgh, Western Carolina was up 24 – 21, but the Panthers battled back to tie it at 24 and then collected the final two points to clinch the first game. The Catamounts came back to tie the match at one a piece with Pittsburgh in the second set with, when the game tied at 23, a kill by freshman Carrie Minogue and a hitting error by Pittsburgh gave WCU the game. The Panthers won the final two games of the match to secure the win.
Minogue, with a .522 attack percentage, had 15 kills and just three hitting errors to lead the Catamounts in the loss against Pittsburgh. Lysik also had 15 kills. Hennessey had 39 assists and Rondone had 19 digs.
“Liz played out of her mind defensively,” Dragan said. “She played with a lot of heart and passion.”
In the game against Kentucky, Western lost 3 – 0 (12 – 25, 18 – 25, 12 – 25). Minogue led the team with seven kills in a match where the Catamounts lacked offensively.
Western, who is 0 – 4 on the season after the losses in Kentucky, traveled to Illinois with matches against Illinois State, Western Michigan and Oakland on Sept. 5 in the hunt for their first win. They will be in Raleigh on Sept. 13 for contests versus William and Mary and North Carolina State. The Catamounts will have their home opener in Cullowhee against UNC Asheville on Sept. 16.
Results of how WCU faired will appear in the next edition of the Western Carolinian.