ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson University volleyball team overcame a stubborn Tusculum squad, as the Trojans extended their win streak to eight straight by defeating the Pioneers, 3-1 (25-27, 30-28, 25-14, 25-16) in South Atlantic Conference action, Friday night at the Abney Athletic Center.
"We knew Tusculum was playing with a lot of confidence coming into tonight's match and it definitely showed," said Anderson head coach Todd Hay. "Their passing was on point for most of the night and they served us tough. To our credit though, we found a way to steady out, continue to serve tough ourselves and give our offense a chance. Our back row was steadier down the stretch than in the beginning and I was proud of that effort."
Anderson (10-2, 7-1 SAC) has won 10 of its last 11 decisions and improved to 3-0 at the Abney Center this season, while Tusculum slipped to 6-7 overall and 4-4 in the conference with its first loss in three outings.
"Thank you to all who came out," added Hay. "It was a great crowd once again,"
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Sophomore outside hitter Maya Learmonth and senior Hailee Wilhelm each posted 11 kills apiece, with Wilhelm posting a .391 hitting percentage and Learmonth recording a .310 attack accuracy. Junior right-side hitter Regan Duty added eight kills and notched a season-high five block assists.
Senior setter Emily Conlin dished out a match-high 44 assists, posted a pair of service aces and narrowly missed her seventh double-double of the season by coming up with nine digs. Freshman Lindsay McCurley tallied a team-high 20 digs, with sophomore Meghan DeVaux posting 11 digs. Sophomore middle hitter Noelle Knutsen added a season-high six block assists, with freshman Alexandra Petrilli garnering eight digs and recording a season-high five aces.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The opening frame featured 11 ties, with neither team able to build more than a three-point lead during the entire set.
AU claimed a 10-9 lead – its first of the set - on Conlin's first ace of the night and moments later took a 14-11 lead on a kill by Duty. But the set saw nine more ties before the Pioneers took the set on back-to-back kills.
The second frame was just as nerve-wracking for the fans in the Abney Center, with the score tied 14 times, including five times during the final frantic moments.
Tusculum managed to push out to a three-point lead on three occasions midway through the set – the final time at 15-12 – but the Trojans chipped away and posted a 10-3 run that was fueled by a pair of kills and a block assist by Wilhelm that turned the three-point deficit into a four-point advantage.
While the Pioneers battled back and knotted the score yet again, they were unable to wrestle the lead away from AU down the stretch, as Learmoth's third kill of the frame gave AU its final lead and Conlin sealed the win with another ace.
The Trojans bolted out to an early 5-2 lead, but Tusculum posted a 7-2 surge that saw the visitors claim a two-point advantage before the tide turned back in favor of the Black and Gold.
The Trojans steadily built a double-digit, 23-13, cushion and took the win on another kill from Learmonth.
AU trailed briefly in the early moments, but doubled up the visitors, 10-5, on an ace from Petrilli and the St. Augustine, Fla., native continue to stymie the Pioneer's back line to help the Trojans build an insurmountable 17-5 lead.
Tusculum was unable to get any closer than nine the rest of the way.
ANDERSON STAT OF THE NIGHT
All five of Petrilli's service aces came in the decisive fourth set.
• The Trojans extended their home win streak to 30 straight matches.
• AU has not lost at home since October, 2016.
• Learmonth has reached double-figure kills in seven of AU's 12 matches.
• Lindsay McCurley has recorded double-figure digs seven times this season.
• Improved to 5-1 in four-set matches this season.
• (If win) The Trojans have won seven straight and nine of the last 10 matchups with Tusculum.
Anderson will get back on the court Saturday, when the Trojans play host to league-newcomer UVa-Wise. First-serve is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Abney Center.