MURFREESBORO, TENN. – Senior Chandler Ambrester hit .385 with 15 kills to lead the Furman volleyball team to a 3-0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-23) victory over Middle Tennessee State at the Blue Raider Dash Friday afternoon in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in the season opener for both teams.
The teams remained closely matched at the beginning of the first set, before Furman won four straight points, using a service ace from senior Natalie Braun and a kill by junior Christina Dorismond to build an 8-5 advantage. The Paladins eventually led 15-10, but the Blue Raiders cut the deficit to two at 17-15. Furman went on a 6-2 run to take a 23-17 lead, and a final kill from senior Natalie Braun gave the Paladins a 25-20 first-set victory.
Furman broke open a 4-4 tie at the start of set two, using a 12-3 run to take a 16-7 lead. The Blue Raiders never could cut the lead to less than seven points, as the Paladins cruised to a 25-14 set win to lead 2-0 at the break.
MTSU built an early 10-7 lead in the third set, but Furman rallied to tie the set at 12-apiece. Following eight ties, the teams remained deadlocked at 19, but the Paladins took advantage of three Blue Raider attack errors for a 22-19 lead. MTSU answered with three-straight points, again tying the set. The teams traded kills to push the score to 23-23, before back-to-back kills by Dorismond and Ambrester clinched the 25-23 victory for the Paladins.
"We haven't won an opening match since 2008, so we were happy to start the season with a win," said Furman head coach Michelle Young after the match-up. "We did a good job handling the ball today. In the future, it will be important for us to serve a little tougher at the end of the match."
Dorismond hit .381 and notched 10 kills in the victory, while Braun added a team-high 12 digs plus seven kills. Junior libero Elle Ross collected 11 digs for Furman, and freshman Jo Wilks paced the Paladins with 35 assists in her collegiate debut.
"It's always nice to win the season opener," said Paladin senior Caroline Adams, who hit .300 in the victory. "We played together as a team today, which is great this early in the season."
MTSU (1-0) was led by Ashley Adams, who tallied 12 kills and two block solos. Bri McCombs had a team-high 11 digs, and Alylssa Ivey posted 18 assists.
UC Davis (1-0) defeated the Paladins 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-20) in the second match of Friday's twin bill. Furman jumped out to a quick 7-1 lead in the opening set, but the Aggies fought back to take a 9-8 advantage. The teams were tied at 15 when UC Davis claimed four-consecutive points to gain momentum. The Paladins cut the lead to two at 23-21, but could come no closer as the Aggies took a 25-22 first set victory.
Furman led 4-2 in the second set before UC Davis went on a 9-2 run to lead 11-6, on their way to an eventual 25-19 win. The teams battled through 12 ties and four lead changes in the third set. With the Paladins leading 16-15, the Aggies put together a crucial 4-0 run to take a 19-16 advantage. Furman came within two points at 21-19, but UC Davis reeled off three-straight points to put the match out of reach.
Ambrester again paced the team with 15 kills, and Braun notched a team-high 11 digs and nine kills. Ross added 10 digs, while Adams hit .471 with eight kills. Wilks tallied 39 assists in the loss.
On Saturday, Furman (1-1) will face UAB at 4 p.m. and Texas San Antonio at 9 p.m. to conclude the tournament.