GREENVILLE, S.C. – Senior Kelly Kirby hit .500 and recorded a double-double with 10 kills and 18 assists to lead the Furman volleyball team to a 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 28-26) win over Samford Saturday afternoon at Alley Gymnasium in the Paladins' 2011 home opener.
The teams were tied at five to open set one before the Paladins reeled off five-straight points to build a 10-5 lead. Samford cut the lead to two at 12-10 then slashed the margin to one at 22-21, before a Furman kill by Kirby and a bad set by the Bulldogs put the Paladins up 24-21. Samford's Chelsi Carter recorded a kill to keep the Bulldogs in the set, but a final kill from Kirby gave Furman a 25-22 set win.
Furman built a quick 10-6 lead in the second set and eventually took a 19-13 advantage in the set. Samford scored four-consecutive points to cut the lead to two at 19-17, then the teams traded points back and forth as the Paladins kept a two-point lead at 22-20. Furman scored three-straight points off a Bulldog service error, coupled with an ace from Furman sophomore Elle Ross, then a Samford hitting error to win the second set 25-20 and take a 2-0 set lead at the break.
The Paladins took a 4-1 advantage early in set three and maintained a three-point margin, eventually leading 17-14, before the Bulldogs put together four-consecutive scores to take an 18-17 lead – the team's first lead since early in set one. Furman knotted the score at 18, then the teams battled through eight ties until a kill from Kirby pushed the score to 26-all. Following a Samford attack error, a kill from junior Chandler Ambrester sealed the 28-26 set victory for the Paladins.
"This was a solid team win," said Kirby following the match. "If Samford shut one play down, we were able to use our other options. The atmosphere in Alley is the best in the Southern Conference. It really helped when we were tired in the third set to have the home crowd cheering us on."
Ambrester posted a team-high 12 kills in the match, while junior Natalie Braun paced the team with 24 assists. Senior Carolyn Nicoletti notched 10 digs to lead the Paladins, and senior Alexis Shaffer hit .385 with seven kills and four blocks.
Samford (14-3, 1-2 SoCon) was led by Elizabeth Neisler, who tallied 18 kills. Casey Garvey recorded 33 assists for the Bulldogs, and Alexis Bauer added 12 digs to pace the Samford defense.
Furman (9-6, 2-1 SoCon) will entertain Wofford Wednesday at 7 p.m.