ELON, N.C. — The Gardner-Webb volleyball team saw its five-match winning streak come to an abrupt end on Saturday night against Elon, as the Phoenix posted 18 blocks to deny the Runnin' Bulldogs a clean sweep at the Phoenix Classic.
"We ran into a very good, disciplined Elon team determined to win their own tourney," said head coach Leo Sayles. "We did not respond enough to the challenge. They capitalized on our missed opportunities and really disrupted our offense with their block. Emma Mistead did her best to give us chances to win with some tremendous defensive play, but we cannot win if we are not generating offensive points. We will take our 2-1 weekend and work to shore up the weaknesses that Elon revealed tonight."
Elon (9-2) won the match by scores of 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, and 25-15 while tallying 71 digs, 57 kills and 18 blocks. The Phoenix held Gardner-Webb (6-3) to 41 kills, 68 digs, five blocks and a .049 clip on the attack.
Tyra Long (Tampa, Fla.) and Taylor Lillard (Victorville, Calif.) led the Runnin' Bulldogs with eight kills each, while Nicole Celarek (Bensenville, Ill.) and Kaelyn Dyson (Holly Springs, N.C.) added six and five, respectively. Emma Milstead (Knoxville, Tenn.) tallied 27 digs and two aces - earning all-tournament honors in the process - as Amanda Sahm (Marion, Iowa) recorded 19 assists, 10 digs and two aces.
Ebony Scott paced the Phoenix with 14 kills on 26 swings - hitting an even .500 in the process - while Kayla Agae added a double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs. Ally Karie posted eight kills and a match-high 10 blocks (one solo, nine assists), as Michelle Klein tallied nine blocks and eight kills. Scott and Kam Terry each chipped in seven blocks, as Sydel Curry recorded 43 assists, 10 digs and five kills. Maddie Jaudon turned in a match-high 25 digs.
Elon stormed out of the gate in the first set, scoring the match's first seven points and taking an early 11-3 lead on a solo stuff by Karie. The Runnin' Bulldogs would trim the margin to 12-6 before the Phoenix stole the momentum back, and pushed the advantage back to eight at 21-13. Gardner-Webb fought back once again moments later, cutting the lead to 24-20 on a well-placed dump by Sahm before a Scott smash gave the Phoenix a 1-0 advantage in the match.
The Runnin' Bulldogs continued to battle in the second, opening an early 4-3 lead before a 6-2 Phoenix spurt gave Elon a 9-6 advantage. Gardner-Webb quickly responded with an 11-7 run, jumping ahead by a 17-16 margin following an ace from Milstead. Elon answered right back with a 9-2 surge to reclaim the momentum, quell the rally and take a 2-0 lead in the match on a tandem block by Terry and Klein.
Gardner-Webb refused to back down into the third set, fighting through a tough Elon defense to open an 11-9 advantage following a smash from Long. After Elon evened the tally at 13-13 on a Scott kill, Gardner-Webb answered with an 8-2 spurt to reclaim the lead at 21-15 following a Molly Johnston (Lubbock, Texas) smash. The Runnin' Bulldogs would hold on from there in the third, weathering a late push by the Phoenix to take the set, 25-22, and force a fourth frame.
The Phoenix responded with a workmanlike performance in the fourth, opening the frame with a 13-4 run that was capped by an Agae kill and a GWU miscue. The Runnin' Bulldogs would claw back to within five at 16-11 following a Lillard smash before Elon responded, and strung together an 8-2 spurt to push Gardner-Webb to match point at 24-13. Dyson answered with a kill to stave off one deciding point, but Elon found a hole in the Runnin' Bulldog defense two points later with a Scott kill to close out the set and the match.
Gardner-Webb returns to the court on Wednesday when the Runnin' Bulldogs host North Carolina A&T at 6:00 pm in Paul Porter Arena.