Sarah Watkins led all players with nine kills and Nicole Karas notched a double-double with 18 assists and 12 digs as University of Mount Olive opened conference play with a 27-25, 25-19, 25-21 victory over Converse College in Conference Carolinas women's volleyball Friday at Kornegay Arena. The match, Mount Olive's second straight win, was the Trojans' conference opener.
In the opening set, Megan Hight capped a five-point service run with the first of her three aces as Mount Olive (2-8 overall, 1-0 Conference Carolinas) broke away from a 9-9 tie. The Trojans still held a five-point lead before Converse used back-to-back second-ball kills by setter Krislyn Moore sparked an 8-3 run to tie the set 21-21. Alysha Burnett's kill and consecutive aces by Hight put the Trojans within a point of winning the set, but the Valkyries saved three consecutive set points and earned a set point of their own on two UMO errors and a pair of kills by JaLesa Beaver to go on top 25-24.
Montgomery Register saved a set point with a tip kill after an extended rally and a Converse attack error gave Mount Olive its fourth set point. Register and Danielle Plante combined on a block to give the Trojans the first set.
Mount Olive trailed 10-8 in the second set before Plante's kill and Karas' seven-point service run put the Trojans ahead to stay. A kill and an ace by Mackenzie Call helped the Trojans build a 23-16 lead and Plante's kill on set point gave Mount Olive a two-set advantage.
After spotting the Valkyries the initial point of the third set, Mount Olive took the lead for good as Register and Watkins capitalized on a pair of overpasses during a 4-0 run. A second-ball kill by Danielle Stachura and a kill by Plante helped give the Trojans their biggest lead at 14-7. Converse pulled within 17-15 after back-to-back kills by Maggie Macdonald capped an 8-3 Valkyrie run. Mount Olive thwarted the rally as Burnett found the Valkyrie right sideline to turn a free ball into a kill and the Trojans built the lead to six points. Converse saved three match points before Britni Johnson's kill sealed the win.
Mount Olive played its first eight contests on the road before beginning a six-match homestand earlier this week.
"We were excited to finally play at home this week," said Call, a sophomore outside hitter from Peoria, Ill. "We definitely play better in front of the home crowd. And it gives us momentum and confidence opening conference play with a win."
All three sets Friday saw Converse rally after Mount Olive built a significant lead. Call said the team will work on avoiding let downs.
"We just need to be more consistent with our communication," said Call. "But the team did a great job of regrouping each set to get the win."
Burnett finished with eight kills and Plante added seven kills for Mount Olive. Stachura recorded 12 assists and Trojan libero had a match-high 16 digs. Register, who had seven blocks in Wednesday's win over Shaw, had five blocks Friday. Register and Stachura served two aces apiece for Mount Olive, which has a combined 20 aces in its last two matches.
Katie Butler and Aeriel Wheeler led Converse with seven kills apiece. Butler also led three Valkyries in double figures with 13 digs. Libero Jordan Robertson had 10 digs and shared match-high honors with Hight with three aces. Moore recorded 25 assists and added five kills with no errors in 12 attempts.
Mount Olive is back in action Saturday afternoon as the Trojans play host to Limestone College in a Conference Carolinas match-up. Match time is 2 p.m. at Kornegay Arena.