BOILING SPRINGS — Sophomore Keira Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.) posted a career-high 13 kills while hitting an otherworldly .667 to lead Gardner-Webb to a comfortable three-set sweep of North Carolina A&T on Wednesday evening in Paul Porter Arena.
"I am very pleased with the focused team effort tonight," praised head coach Leo Sayles. "Our players did a great job taking our game plan and sticking to it. I was also pleased with our consistency in every category. It was fun to watch Keira Moore have a career night tonight, but every player took care of their role on the floor. We will refocus and see if we can continue to build on our successful early season this weekend."
Gardner-Webb (7-3) won the match by scores of 25-12, 25-17 and 25-12, hitting .333 overall - including a blistering .536 clip in the first set - while tallying 41 kills, 50 digs and eight service aces. The Runnin' Bulldogs held North Carolina A&T (2-8) to 24 kills, 35 digs and a .040 hitting percentage.
Moore led the Runnin' Bulldog attack with a breakout performance, registering a season- and career-high 13 kills - including six smashes in the opening set - as Nicole Celarek (Bensenville, Ill.) added six kills on 11 swings. Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Week Emma Milstead (Knoxville, Tenn.) posted a match-high 18 digs, while Tinsley Fain (Boiling Springs, S.C.) and Amanda Sahm (Marion, Iowa) dished out 20 and 14 assists, respectively. Sahm and Taylor Lillard (Victorville, Calif.) each dropped in two service aces.
Alyssa Pitt paced the Aggies with seven kills, while Jasmine Lindor and Samara Brown added five and four, respectively. Kayla Finnerty dished out 20 assists; Keniah Rivera tallied 11 digs.
Gardner-Webb pulled away midway through the first set, and opened a commanding 14-5 lead after Tyra Long (Tampa, Fla.) capped an 11-2 surge with an emphatic kill. North Carolina A&T would close the gap to 18-10, before the Runnin' Bulldogs answered with a 7-2 spurt to finish out the set and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The Aggies fought back in the opening moments of the second, taking an early 4-3 advantage on a Pitt smash. The Runnin' Bulldogs quickly countered with an 11-6 run to open a 14-10 lead before a 6-2 Aggie spurt evened the tally at 16-16. Gardner-Webb would answer once again, scoring nine of the next 10 points to hold off A&T and take a commanding 2-0 advantage in the contest.
Moore and the Runnin' Bulldogs carried the momentum into the early moments of the third with a 12-4 run, which was capped by a powerhouse swing from Moore off an assist from Fain. The Runnin' Bulldogs would push the lead to 17-7 with an ace by Sahm, and kept the Aggies at arm's length for the remainder of the frame en route to the 25-12 third-set win to secure the straight-set sweep.
Gardner-Webb returns to the court on Friday when the Runnin' Bulldogs travel to Columbia, S.C. to take on William & Mary at 5:30 pm on the first night of the Gamecock Invitational, hosted by the University of South Carolina.