Volleyball enters conference play with stellar record

Clayton Hurdle
Sports Writer

Samford’s volleyball team began its Southern Conference season with a two-day road trip to North Carolina, losing to Appalachian State on Saturday and sweeping Western Carolina on Sunday.

The Bulldogs dropped the contest to Appalachian State in a four-set match.

Samford came out strong in the first set, leading 14-10 halfway through. The Lady Mountaineers never gave up, but the Bulldogs held on to win the set 25-20.

“In the first set, we played at a good level,” head coach Derek Schroeder said. “We weren’t excellent, but we came out stronger than they did and were able to win the first set.”

Appalachian State won the second set, starting out with a 13-6 lead. The Bulldogs made a bold attempt to regain momentum, and eventually pulled within three points. However, the Mountaineers pulled through, winning the set 25-20 and evening the match at one.

The set was the first lost by Samford in two weeks.

“In the past couple of weeks, no one’s really pushed us,” Schroeder said. “Appalachian State popped us in the mouth with inspired play, a tough home court, and some hecklers in the crowd.”

The third set was a back-and-forth affair throughout; the two teams had to extend beyond 25 points apiece for Appalachian State to gain a two-point set advantage. The Mountaineers eventually pulled ahead, winning 27-25.

The Mountaineers dominated the final set of the game, leading by eight for a majority and winning 25-17 to put the match away.

Junior outside hitter Elizabeth Neisler, an exercise science major, led the Bulldogs’ against Appalachian State, recording a season-high 20 kills.

“When it felt like our team wanted to pack it in, [Neisler] did a great job leading,” Schroeder said.

The Bulldogs traveled 135 miles southwest to Cullowhee for Sunday’s match against the Western Carolina Catamounts. Samford won the match in three sets.

“We needed to forget about the loss and move forward from it,” Neisler said. “What impressed me the most about this weekend was our ability to come back and win against Western in three.”

Samford again had a strong start, taking an 11-6 lead to start the first set. After extending the lead to 18-11, Samford traded points with Western Carolina for the rest of the set, winning 25-19.

In the second set, the two teams continued the back-and-forth play from the end of the first set until a Neisler kill put the Bulldogs up 17-14. Samford never looked back, and ended up with a seven-point set victory.

The Bulldogs looked to clinch the match, but were hard-pressed against a resilient Catamount squad. Western Carolina put up a 7-3 lead to start the third set.

Samford kept it close, but it was Western Carolina that reached set point first, leading 24-21 with the serve. A service error gave Samford new life, and the Bulldogs roared back to win the final set by a score of 27-25.

“We took our foot off the gas a little and found ourselves down,” Schroeder said, “so we just clicked in, put our foot back on the gas and did what we needed to do to win.”

Neisler again led the Bulldogs statistically with 19 kills.

Samford is 14-2 overall, and 1-1 in SoCon play, after this weekend. They travel to Furman on Oct.1, and return home when they play Chattanooga on Oct. 5.

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