Charlotte volleyball got into a long battle with FIU, but fell in the fifth and deciding set to lose 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 25-15, 18-25, 15-12) Friday evening at the U.S. CenturyBank Arena in the Conference USA opener for both squads. Charlotte slips to 10-6, 0-1, while the Panthers move to 7-6, 1-0.
The fifth set saw the Panthers score the first three points and hold the lead until Charlotte posted four points in a five-point stretch to tie the set at nine. FIU then went on its own 4-1 run and stayed out front to the end to close out the home victory.
The 49ers jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the opening set, only to watch FIU take a 5-4 lead. The opening set went back and forth until the Niners scored twice after a 19-all tie and never trailed again in the opening-set victory.
Charlotte led most of the second set, but an 8-2 late run by the Panthers pushed the lead to two and FIU scored four of the last five points to get the four-point win even the match at a set each.
Following the intermission, Charlotte jumped out to a 7-3 lead, but an 11-2 Panthers run made the score 16-10 and the 49ers could not climb back in.
The fourth set saw ties at the first eight points as neither team was able to put together a run until, tied at 12, Charlotte scored eight of the next 10 points and held on and force the fifth set.
Sophomore setter Britney Leigh Held (Brookfield, Wis. / Brookfield Central HS) posted her fifth double-double of the season with 44 assists and 10 digs. Four 49ers reached double figures in kills, led by sophomore Sarah McDonald (Snoqualmie, Wash. / Mount Si HS), who had 13. McDonald has tied for the team lead in kills twice this season, but this was the first time she has led in kills alone in a match.
Sophomore libero Michelle Hovey (Raleigh, N.C. / Lighthouse) kept up her defensive prowess with 26 more digs in the match, keeping her season average above five per set. She entered play second in C-USA in that category. Freshman defensive specialist Morgan Barker (Holly Springs, N.C.) added 15, her sixth match this year with double-digit digs.
Junior Savannah Gaster (Johnsonville, S.C.) tied her career high with 10 kills in the match. She posted a .400 attack percentage with just two errors on 20 attempts to lead the team on the night. She also leads the team in attack percentage for the season, with a .339 mark, 10th-best in C-USA.
The 49ers will stay in town and continue the conference road swing with a Sunday noon match at Florida Atlantic.
NOTES: Charlotte was 9-2 the last two seasons in five-set matches, but have lost both this season, both on the road, (at Davidson, 8/30).