GREENVILLE, S.C. – Fueled by the serves of junior Natalie Braun, the Furman volleyball team put together a 13-0 run to open set four en route to a 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-6) victory over the College of Charleston Friday night in Alley Gymnasium in Greenville, S.C. The Paladins, who handed the Cougars their first Southern Conference loss of the season, moved into a tie for first place with College of Charleston in the SoCon's South Division.
With the match tied at 22-apiece in the third set, the momentum swung in the Paladins' favor after back-to-back kills from seniors Kelly Kirby and Alexis Shaffer put Furman up 24-22 and brought the fans from their seats. Following a College of Charleston timeout, Sloan White earned a kill to keep the Cougars in the match, 24-23, but an additional kill from Kirby sealed the 25-23 set win and gave the Paladins a 2-1 advantage in the match.
Braun notched a kill off a Cougar serve to open set four then served 13 consecutive-points to put the Paladins firmly in control, as the team went on to a 26-4 victory in the final set. Furman held the Cougars to a -.094 attack percentage in the final set and a .122 attack percentage overall.
"It was the tremendous play by my teammates that kept me on the service line for so long," said Braun following the match. "Our blockers were phenomenal tonight. The fans in Alley are great, and we look forward to another fun match tomorrow."
The teams fought through a close first set, but College of Charleston pulled away to take a 24-20 lead. A kill from sophomore Christina Dorismond, followed by a service ace by sophomore Elle Ross, kept the Paladins in the set, 24-22, but a kill by White gave the Cougars a 25-22 set one win.
College of Charleston led 4-2 to open set two, before the Paladins tied the match at five-apiece. The teams then battled through six ties to settle at 12-all. Furman put together three-straight points from a kill by junior Caroline Adams, a Cougar hitting error, and a service ace by senior Carolyn Nicoletti to take a 15-12 advantage. The Cougars regrouped to tie the match at 15, then the teams remained deadlocked through four additional ties, before Furman broke open a 19-19 tie following a Cougar attack error and a service ace from Adams. Following a College of Charleston timeout, an additional Cougar hitting error gave the Paladins a 22-19 lead. Furman earned set point following a kill by senior Kelly Kirby, then a final kill from Dorismond sealed the 25-21 set two victory and tied the match score at 1-1 going into the break.
"The crowd was incredible tonight," said Furman head coach Michelle Young after the win. "Matches like tonight's are the main reason we made the move to Alley and having the crowd so involved in the match tonight confirmed this move. We were toe-to-toe for the first three sets, and we knew we had to get this win at home and the girls responded."
Braun and Kirby tallied triple-doubles in the win, as Braun recorded 13 kills, a team-high 22 assists, and 13 digs, and Kirby posted 11 kills, 21 assists, and 11 digs. Shaffer grabbed a career-high 11 blocks with nine block assists and two block solos. Dorismond tied Braun's 13 kills, while adding 7 block assists, and Nicoletti paced the Paladin defense with 19 digs.
College of Charleston (13-8, 4-1 SoCon) was led by White, who posted 11 kills, and Sara Havel, who recorded 10 kills. Kallie McKown notched 19 assists to lead the Cougars, while Lizzie Theesfeld posted a match-high 19 digs to lead the defense.
Furman (10-6, 4-1 SoCon) will entertain The Citadel Saturday at 7 p.m. in Alley Gymnasium. Admission is free to the event.