By Justin CaudellSports Editor
As fall is nearing winter and the leaves begin to vanish, the Lady Catamount volleyball season is also nearing its conclusion. Western Carolina is deep into the heart of Southern Conference play, with recent matches against Wofford, College of Charleston, The Citadel, Elon, and UNC-Greensboro. The Lady Catamounts could only muster one win out of the five SoCon attempts, but the string of matches included a non-conference clash with East Tennessee State, which WCU won.
Western Carolina’s downfall in the Southern Conference matches began when the Terriers of Wofford took down the Cats 3 sets to 1 (18-25, 23-25, 26-24, 20-25) on Oct. 15. The story of the match was the Catamounts inability to attack effectively. In the first set of the match the Cats had their worst set of the year with a .000 attack percentage. They were able to bounce back and record a .275 and .306 attack percentage in the second and third games respectively, winning the third set, but couldn’t get past Wofford in the end.
WCU was led offensively in kills by junior Amanda Kerr with 14 and she also had seven digs. Freshman Katie Hennessey added 35 assists and freshman Brittany Lysik had 15 digs.
Looking to rebound to the loss to Wofford, the Cats returned home to the Ramsey Center for a pair of matches during family weekend on Oct. 24 and 25.
In the first of the two matches, the Catamounts faced the College of Charleston Cougars on Oct. 24. The Cougars took the match 3 sets to 1 (12-25, 29-27, 20-25, 11-25) to maintain their second place Southern Conference ranking, despite sophomore Kara Lynzee Brooks having a season-high 12 kills for Western.
“Kara Lynzee had a big match for us,” said head coach Stephanie Dragan. “We took a gamble and kept her in for all the rotations and it payed off for her.”
As a team though, the Lady Catamounts hit only .101 in the match compared to the Cougars .310. College of Charelston also had 70 kills, compared to the Catamounts 37.
The Catamounts bounced back from game one, hitting -.034, to take game two from the Cougars, while Western Carolina also battled in game three. But the College of Charleston took an 8-3 run to break a 17 all tie in the set to secure the game and eventually the match.
Junior Liz Rondone racked up 21 digs in the match and Hennessey had 30 of the team’s 32 assists.
In the second match of family weekend, the Catamounts welcomed the Bulldogs from The Citadel on Oct. 25. This match not only was a conference showdown, but Western was playing for a cause, Breast Cancer Awareness. The Lady Catamounts recorded the victory over the Bulldogs 3 games to 2 (25-29, 14-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-7), but also raised $1,844 dollars for Breast Cancer Research in the team’s annual “Dig for a Cure” match..
On the court, the Catamounts came out of the gate on fire scoring a .343 scoring percentage in the first set, shutting down the Citadel early. In the second set though, the Cats regressed and only managed a .059 scoring percentage, while the Bulldogs were hitting .349.
“I think the first game wasn’t as challenging as we expected,” Dragan said. “So in game two I think we got a bit complacent.
“I challenged the team at halftime,” added Dragan “I told them to go out and play tough volleyball and we would win.”
Western Carolina answered the call. They responded by winning game three, but The Citadel battled back to take game four, forcing a game five. In game five, with the game tied at three, Western Carolina took the lead and never looked back.
The Catamounts were backed by Brooks who had a season-high performance in kills, with 14. She was one of four Catamount players to record double-figure kills against the Bulldogs: Rebecca Stoltz had 13, Kerr had 12 and Lysik notched 10.
Western took a break from Southern Conference play to host Eastern Tennesse State on Oct. 28, but their winning ways didn’t stop. The Catamounts won the match 3 games to 2 (17-25, 18-25, 25-20, 25-16, 15-12) to knotch their first back-to-back winning streak of the season. At halftime, the Catamounts were down by 2 sets, but were able to rally to win three straight after the half.
“I challenged the team at halftime to go out and fight for the win,” said Dragan.”They took my challenge and put together an amazing performance. I am so proud of them.”
WCU tried to continue their momentum in their return to SoCon play on Nov. 1 versus Elon, but the Catamounts fell to 3 games to 1 (13-25, 21-25, 25-22, 20-25). They also slipped up to UNC-Greensboro, losing 3 – 0 (10-25, 13-25, 13-25) on Nov. 2.
With the losses, the Catamounts moved to 6-21 overall on the season and 3-10 in the Southern Conference. Western Carolina has five matches remaining until the Southern Conference Tournament on Nov. 19.
(Western Carolinian sports writer Cory Spaugh contributed to this report)