By Justin Caudell
The Lady Catamounts snapped a 12 game losing streak dating back to last year when they hosted their first volleyball tournament, the Catamount Clash, on Sept. 19 and 20.
Western clinched their first win of the season, and first since Nov. 6, 2007 against Furman, when they defeated Norfolk State 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-21) in their opening match of the Catamount Clash. The Lady Catamounts had strong leads in all three games and were able to hold off late rallies by the Spartans.
WCU had a .217 attack percentage in the victory and only 13 errors in 129 attempts, compared to Norfolk’s 24. Freshmen Carrie Minogue and Rebecca Stoltz backed the Lady Catamounts with 11 kills in the match, while junior setter Katie Hennessey picked up the eighth double-double of her career with 35 assists and 14 digs. Junior Liz Rondone added 20 digs in the contest.
“I kept telling the team if we could break .200 in attack percentage, we would start winning matches,” said head volleyball coach Stephanie Dragan. “We had some great performances defensively which allowed our middles to get the ball.”
Western tried to win back-to-back with a game against Arkansas State a few hours after the Norfolk contest, but the Lady Catamounts narrowly lost three games to fall in the match overall 3-0 (23-25, 20-25, 21-25).
Stoltz and junior Amanda Kerr led the WCU attack in the loss with six kills each. Rondone had 14 digs.
The Lady Catamounts rebounded from the setback against Arkansas State on Sept. 20 with a win against Presbyterian College in the final day of the Catamount Clash, defeating the Blue Hose 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-20). Western dominated throughout the game, knotching 43 team kills and 103 attacks with a .320 attack percentage.
Kerr led the team with 12 kills and also had 11 digs for her first career double-double. Freshman Brittany Lysik also notched a double-double with 10 kills and 14 digs. Minogue had 8 kills.
“I am so proud of our team, going 2-2,” said Dragan. “The team had a goal to come into today’s game with some intensity and strike early and they did that.”
In the week following the Catamount Clash, the Lady Catamounts won a five-game battle against Elon for their first Southern Conference victory, taking down the Phoenix on Sept. 28 in Cullowhee 3-2 (25-16, 25-13, 17-25, 18-25, 15-13).
WCU took a 2-0 game lead in the match, but simple mistakes forced five sets. Kerr led the club in kills with 14 against Elon. Minogue added 11 and also had three service aces. Setter Hennessey had a double-double with 34 assists and 13 digs. While Rondone added 22 digs in the win.
“This is my first victory over Elon in my coaching career at Western Carolina,” said Dragan. “We have come close, with the last two matches going in five, but it is good to finally come out on top. I am so proud of the players. They dug down deep in that fifth game and just refused to lose.”
The SoCon victory over Elon was preceded by a loss to UNC Greensboro on Sept. 27 in the Lady Catamount’s conference opener. The team fell 3-2 (25-14, 15-25, 25-21, 12-25, 11-15).
After winning three of their past five matches, Western is presently 3-12 on the season, 1-1 in conference. WCU had two road contests over the weekend, a conference game at Chattanooga on Oct. 4, and a SoCon match at Samford on Oct. 5. They are scheduled to face Furman today, Oct. 8.