CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The 49ers volleyball team split a pair of matches during the final day of 2014 Charlotte Invitational topping ETSU 3-1 in their first contest before falling by the same tally to Sacramento State in the nightcap. Charlotte wins the team title during the weekend while Britney Leigh Held and Semen Sen were both named to the All-Tournament Team with Sen being named the tournament MVP.
CHARLOTTE 3, ETSU 1
Charlotte’s Claire Kreuz wasted no time in getting the Niners out to a 5-0 lead in set one and forcing an early ETSU timeout by putting down her first of four kills in the match while Savannah Gaster, Irem Asci and Held each did the same setting the tone early against the Buccaneers. ETSU would slowly creep their way back into the set with an ace from Kristen Favre and kill by Meredith Hardy but kills from Sarah McDonald, Kreuz, Gaster and Asci, along with a pair of aces by Sen and Morgan Barker aided a late push for the Niners in a 25-20 set win. Charlotte hit .467 in the opening set which is their highest mark so far through three matches.
In set two, the Niners saw that offense in set one disappear as ETSU would hit .379 as a unit to even the match at one set apiece 25-15. Briana Allmon would give the Bucs a 6-5 advantage early on which turned out to be a lead they would never relinquish. Allmon’s kill start a six-point run for the visitors bolting them out to an 11-5 lead. Charlotte tried to get back in it with kills from Asci, Michaela White and Sen but errors would continue to aid ETSU in the second set including the set’s final point to square the match.
After the 10-minute intermission, the Niners stormed right out of the gates again regaining the match’s momentum taking an 8-1 lead on kills by Gaster, ace from Asci and Abreia Epps. After missing all of 2013 due to injury, Epps made her season debut in the third set and immediately put down her first career kill on her first attempt. Charlotte maintained that comfortable lead eventually going up 2-1 in the match using another Held kill along with two from McDonald extending the lead out to 16-10. Sen of Charlotte and Bethany Gesell of ETSU would each trade three kills in a six-play span for a 21-16 game while a final Gaster kill and Held ace put the Niners a set away from a 3-0 start to 2014.
The phrase “ace” would arrive in big fashion during set four as Charlotte libero served up five in one service term including three-straight that forced ETSU to burn both timeouts as Charlotte went from down one at 4-3, to up 11 at 16-5. In the 13-point run for the Niners, McDonald would put down three kills having an error free set four while Asci added two. Charlotte would cruise to the finish line from there as a pair of Sen and Epps kills iced set four 25-15 and a 3-1 match win for the Niners.
“We saw this as a challenge all throughout preseason,” remarked Head Coach Gokhan Yilmaz after defeating the Buccaneers. “Our kids did a very good job following the game plan with good production from our middles. We saw the potential of how well we can play and that’s what we’re going to try and do for the rest of the season. I was happy with our overall effort with the match.”
Sen and McDonald led all attackers with 11 kills in the win with McDonald hitting a career-high and team-best .476 in the victory. Sen didn’t disappoint in the hitting department as well .318 while Gaster put down seven kills to hit .385. Held would assist 39 times in the win keying the offense while Green, in addition to her aces, popped up 16 digs.
SACRAMENTO STATE 3, CHARLOTTE 1
The Niners trailed for most of the opening set before battling back to a 19-18 lead on back-to-back kills by Epps. Charlotte would maintain that slim lead until the Hornets tied it up at 23-23. Both teams would trade points at 24 and 25 until final kills from Epps and Sen gave the Niners a 27-25 set one win.
Set two was much like the first tied at 16-16 until Madeline Cannon, also named to the All-Tournament Team, led a five-point run for Sacramento State giving them the final bit of breathing room to even the match at 1-1. Two more Epps kills and ace by Sen kept the Niners hanging around but a final kill from Sloan Lovett and error by the Niners evened the match at one apiece.
Midway through set three, kills from Kreuz, Sen and McDonald saw the hosts take a 16-13 lead as the Niners were able to keep that advantage up to the 20-20 mark on another Sloan kill and Charlotte miscue. McDonald help the Green and White battle back to 22-22 on her ninth kill of the match, but the Hornets were equal to the task getting three-straight kills from Morgan Stanley to end the set 25-23 and take a 2-1 lead.
The back-and-forth theme continued for both sides leading to a 13-13 start in the fourth. Epps and McDonald both led the start until Stanley went off again for Sacramento State reeling off four-straight kills giving the Hornets a 17-13 advantage. The Niners tried to fight back one last time with kills from Epps and Held, but eventually ran out of time as Stanley fittingly ended the night with her 24th kill of the match clinching a 3-1 win for the Hornets.
In addition to her match-high 24 kills, Stanley hit .457 a part of Sacramento State’s .374 team mark in the win. Epps paced the Niners with a team-high 15 kills while McDonald added 11. Held would add 45 more assists to her weekend total while Green posted a dozen digs.
“Overall, I think it’s a good start, it’s really positive,” finished Yilmaz. “I thought we did a lot of positive things. Britney is learning how to play the system we want to run and she’s only going to get better. Semen had a very good weekend, I was happy for her. I’m very pleased with both. “
Charlotte will get back to action inside Halton Arena on Tuesday night hosting Winthrop in non-conference action at 7:00 p.m. Live video and stats will be available through the Niners athletic website http://www.charlotte49ers.com with in-game updates provided on Twitter by following @49erVolleyball and @49erGameDay.
Arianna Hayden (MSU), Ashleigh Shain (ETSU), Jessica Brezwyn (UNCG), Madeline Cannon (Sac State), Britney Leigh Held (Charlotte), Semen Sen (MVP - Charlotte)