BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - The Union volleyball team now sits in sole possession of second in the Appalachian Athletic Conference standings following a hard-fought, 3-1 win over visiting Columbia (S.C.) on Saturday.
The Bulldogs picked up the win by the scores of 25-19, 25-22, 20-25, 26-24 to improve to 18-6 overall and 11-2 in conference play. Bryan (Tenn.) is in first at 15-0 in league. Montreat (N.C.) is a half game back of Union in third at 11-3, while Columbia is fourth at 11-4.
"Thought we came out focused in the first game and executed the game plan well," said Union coach Jeremy Wise. "But we kind of pressed things in the middle of the match. The kids gutted it out and didn't quit late in the match.
"Now we've beat everybody in the conference we've played at least once, but we still have two matches left with Bryan, so they still kind of control their own destiny and have a shot at getting the No. 1 seed in the tournament."
Union had three players to post double-digit kills with Paige Moore leading the way with 17.
"Paige was a real work horse for us, had lots of big swings when we needed them," Wise said.
Karina Ramos and Caity Merritt followed with 14 and 12 kills, respectively. Heather Fields posted a double-double with 44 assists and a season-high 17 digs. Ana Calaza had 25 digs with Summer Manning adding 15.
The Bulldogs controlled much of the play in the first set. Up 10-6, Union used a 4-0 run to open up a 14-6 cushion en routed to the 25-19.
The second set was a bit more of a struggle for Union. Down 4-3, Colubmia went on a 6-2 run to grab a 9-5 lead. Union battled back but had issues reclaiming the lead. There were 21 total ties in the second set alone. Trailing 21-19, Union reeled off the next three points to take a 22-21 lead. An ace by Calaza put Union up a point. A setting error by the Bulldogs allowed the Koalas to tie the set at 22-22, but Unon answered with back-to-back kills by Merritt and a kill from Ramos for the 25-22 win and 2-0 match lead.
Not willing to go away quietly, Columbia pressed hard in the third set and used an 11-3 run to open up a 21-12 advantage. The Bulldogs continued to scrapped, cutting the deficit to 21-18. However, Columbia scored four of the final six points for the 25-20 win to force a fourth set.
The fourth set started off eerily similar to the third as Columbia raced out to 12-4 lead. But once again, Union stormed back with a 7-0 run to pull within 12-11. During the rally, Moore hammered home three kills. The Bulldogs pulled ahead 16-14 after back-to-back attack errors by the Koalas, yet Columbia answered back to tie the score at 16. Union led 22-20 when Columbia scored three points in a row with MacKenzie Wood delivered an ace and a kill to put the Koalas up 23-22. After the teams traded points to make it 24-23 Columbia, Union scored the final three points of the match thanks to three Columbia errors.
"Just proud of our girls execution," Wise said. "They stayed with it and did not quit, especially when things got tough."
Errors really hampered Columbia as it had 17 attack errors, 15 service errors, five block errors and three ball-handling errors.
The Koalas also had three players with double-digit kills with Richelle Prijic and Caylee Antilley each having 12 and Danielle Pettigrew adding 10. Jacqui Anderson recorded 43 assists, and Chloe Perkins registered 27 digs.
By the Numbers
- Union posted a season-high 100 digs - 25 more than the previous season high. Five Bulldogs notched double-digit digs. In addition to Calaza, Fields and Manning, Kassie Bruner had 12 with Linsey Ellis posting 11.
- With her 25 digs, Calaza eclipsed the 500-dig mark for the season and now stands at 504.
- Moore now has 300 kills on the season. She had a career-best 339 kills in 2012.
- The double-double was the sixth of the year for Fields, who is eight assists away from 700 on the season.
Union will travel to Virginia Intermont on Tuesday for another conference contest. Match time is set for 6:30 p.m.