GREENVILLE, S.C. – Senior Natalie Braun recorded a double-double with a team-high 25 kills and 17 digs and notched a .500 attack percentage as the Furman volleyball team extended its winning streak to seven matches with a thrilling 3-1 (25-16, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19) victory over Clemson Tuesday in Alley Gymnasium to open the 2012 home season. The win, the Paladins' first over the Tigers in Greenville in the history of the series, increases Furman's home winning streak to 17 matches.
The teams remained within two points in the opening set before back-to-back kills from Braun gave the Paladins a 20-16 lead. Following a Tiger attack error, Braun served three consecutive aces to push the advantage to 24-16, before serving match point for the set win.
Clemson answered in the second set, reeling off four-straight points to break open a 5-5 tie. The Tigers built a seven-point lead at 21-14 and seemed to have control of the set, but a 6-1 run kept the Paladins in the match at 22-20. The teams traded points, then a kill from Tiger Kristin Faust, coupled with a block by Mo Simmons, sealed the Tiger win, leaving the teams tied at one set apiece at the break.
The Tigers came out strong early in set three, building a quick 10-6 lead, but Braun came through again with back-to-back kills to put the Paladins right back in the set. Clemson maintained a two point lead throughout the set, before a kill from senior Caroline Adams and an attack error by Faust tied the set at 20-all. The teams remained tied at 21, then consecutive kills from Adams and rookie Amelia Bohlander pushed the momentum toward the Paladins, giving the team a 23-21 advantage. An additional Adams kill increased the Furman lead to 24-22, before Chandler Ambrester's kill at match point put the Paladins ahead two sets to one.
Furman capitalized off the electric atmosphere in Alley Gymnasium, leading wire-to-wire in set four to claim the match. Clemson came within three points of the Paladins at 21-18, but the Furman seniors remained tough, as Ambrester and Adams posted key kills down the stretch, then the senior duo claimed a block assist on the final point to seal the victory.
"This was a big match for our home opener, and we want to see how we would weigh in against the big teams in the state," said Furman head coach Michelle Young following the win. "Our team played with such composure tonight. We just played good, solid volleyball. We were in the box all night and we served well. I was very pleased with our level play."
Freshman Jo Wilks notched her fourth double-double of the season, tallying 61 assists and 13 digs in the match-up. "Jo has stepped in and has done exactly what we needed her to do," said Young. "She has such good instincts for a young player. Overall, we are a veteran team this year. It's so nice to have so many upperclassmen, and the girls are having a great time out there."
Ambrester recorded 20 kills and eight digs for the Paladins, while junior libero Elle Ross notched 18 digs to pace the Furman defense. Freshman Caitlyn Scioscia added 13 digs, and junior Christina Dorismond posted seven kills, two block solos, and three block assists in the win.
"This was a big win for us tonight, as we were defending our home turf," said Adams, who hit .565 with 13 kills, no errors, and four blocks for the night. "We came out in the first set swinging then let up a little bit in the second one, but we came back and showed that we wanted this game more."
"It was so great being back in Alley," said Braun. "The atmosphere here tonight was awesome, as usual, and we fed off the crowd. We came in believing that we could beat a really good team like Clemson, and we played our game, we executed, and everyone did their part."
Clemson (7-1) was led by Faust and Simmons, who each notched 15 kills in the loss. Serenat Yaz and Sandra Adeleye each recorded 11 kills, while setter Hannah Brenner posted a team-high 51 assists. Libero Natalie Patzin led the Tiger defense with 16 digs.
Furman (8-1) will travel to Missoula, Mont., this weekend for the Best Western Grant Creek Inn Invitational. The Paladins will face Montana Friday at 9 p.m., then play Texas Tech and Towson on Saturday.