Women’s volleyball starts conference hot

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The Mercer women’s volleyball team has gotten back to their winning ways picking up four wins and only dropping two matches in the last six contests.

On Sept.14, the Bears traveled to Winthrop University for the annual Winthrop Classic. The first match-up for the ladies was against the host school Winthrop.
Head coach Damian Elder’s squad got a match-high 14 kills from freshman Molly Locke and a double-double from senior setter Monica Sanchez in a 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-14) loss to Winthrop as part of the Winthrop Classic on Friday evening.
After dropping the opening set to Winthrop, Mercer led 22-18 in the second stanza before Winthrop stormed back with a 7-1 run to claim the frame.  In the third set, the Eagles raced out to a 7-1 lead before sealing the victory.
Sanchez’s double-double effort was her second of the season, earned with 18 assists and 12 digs.  Locke narrowly missed her own double-double, recording nine digs in the losing effort.
At the conclusion of the match, Mercer held advantages in both kills (33-32) and digs (56-55).
Junior setter Carly Iannarino contributed a match-high four service aces in the loss, while adding six digs and five assists.
Day two of the Winthrop Classic saw the Bears win against both Western Carolina and North Carolina A&T.
A number of eye-popping stats highlighted the victories as the team concluded play at the Winthrop Classic.  Mercer topped Western Carolina 3-1 (17-25, 26-24, 26-24, 25-18) before downing North Carolina A&T 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-15, 25-22).
Against Western Carolina, Mercer’s most efficient combination of freshman Molly Locke and senior Monica Sanchez both turned in impressive double-double efforts.  Locke led all players in the match with 23 total kills while also adding 18 digs, two block-assists and two service aces in the match.  Locke’s 23 kills marked Mercer’s highest single-match kill total since Amiee Frutchey had 23 kills in a five-set match against South Carolina State on September 18, 2010.
Sanchez’s second-straight double-double was earned with 49 assists, 10 digs, three kills and a block-assist.  Her 49 assists was her largest total for the Mercer Bears and represented the third time this season she has posted 40 or more assists in a contest.
The Bears’ defeat of the Catamounts was hard-fought, as Mercer dropped the opening set and was forced to go to extra points to earn the second and third set victories.  In the second set, back-to-back kills by Locke helped the Bears break away from a 24-24 tie.  In the third set, the score was tied 24-24 once again before a pair of Western Carolina attacking errors lifted Mercer to the win.
In the second match of the day, junior Emily Rochefort led a Mercer back-line defense that limited North Carolina A&T to a .081 hitting percentage.  In the four set win, Rochefort piled up 43 digs, marking the highest single-match dig total for an Atlantic Sun player since Jacksonville’s Shelley Walroth collected 46 against Florida Gulf Coast on October 17, 2009.
Against North Carolina A&T, Mercer stumbled out of the gates and dropped the opening set again.  In the second set, Mercer broke away from a 20-20 tie with a 5-1 run to even the match score at 1-1.  In the third set, Mercer raced out to a 5-0 lead and never trailed on the way to a 25-15 victory.  The final set, Mercer held a slim 22-21 advantage before closing on a 3-1 surge.
Senior Jamie Duffy narrowly missed her second double-double of the year against the Aggies, racking up a team-high 13 kills and nine digs.  Her classmate Charlayna Braxton chipped in eight kills and three block-assists, while Madison Petsos was credited with seven kills.
After picking up two wins in the Winthrop Classic, the women’s volleyball team turned their focus to the most important stretch of the season: conference play.
In their home-opener, the Bears took on conference foe ETSU. ETSU was predicted to finish third in the conference in pre-season voting, so the squad knew that they were going to be a more than formidable opponent.
Freshman outside hitter Molly Locke posted her fifth double-double of the season to lead Mercer volleyball team to a statement victory over East Tennessee State on Tuesday night at Hawkins Arena.  Mercer won the match 3-0 (25-23, 25-16, 25-17).
After edging the Lady Bucs in a back and forth first set, the Bears went full throttle at the outset of the second frame.  Mercer raced out to a 6-1 lead and never looked back en route to the 25-16 victory.
By the third set, Mercer’s home court advantage had the visitors on their heels.  The Bears broke away from an initial 3-3 tie with a 6-3 surge and never trailed the rest of the way.
Locke smashed a match-high 15 kills and collected 13 digs, establishing the ninth time this season she had led or tied for the team lead in kills.  Her 28 attacks came with just four errors, equating to a .393 hitting percentage.
Sophomore Caroline Carlton and senior Charlayna Braxton were also especially effective against the ETSU front-line defense.  Carlton pounded out nine kills with only one error, while Braxton crushed seven kills with just two miscues.  Carlton’s efforts registered a .444 attacking efficiency while Braxton booked a .357 hitting percentage.
Senior setter Monica Sanchez topped 30 assists for the third-straight game, collecting 36 helpers in the winning effort.  Her 36 assists also came in conjunction with six digs and a pair of kills.
Junior Emily Rochefort, who came into the match ranked fifth in the nation in digs per set (5.83), collected 12 digs, three assists and two service aces.
Next up for the Bears were the Stetson University Hatters.
A trio of Mercer volleyball players notched double-double efforts as the Bears claimed a 3-1 (25-17, 19-25, 25-21, 25-17) win over Stetson at Hawkins Arena.
Freshman Molly Locke registered her team-leading sixth double-double of the season with 11 kills and 15 digs, while seniors Jamie Duffy and Monica Sanchez also turned in double-double performances.  Duffy’s double-dip came by virtue of 11 kills and 18 digs while Sanchez’s night featured 36 assists and 19 digs.
Behind a spirited crowd, Mercer controlled the opening set after the teams traded the first six points of the match.  A pair of Stetson miscues gave Mercer a 5-3 advantage, and the Bears would never trail on their way to a 25-17 victory.
At the start of the second set, Mercer lost three quick points and ultimately found itself behind by as many as seven points (10-3).  The Bears battled back to close within two points at 21-19, but Stetson held on for a 25-19 triumph.
The third set was the most competitive, featuring 12 tie scores and six lead changes.  Mercer held a slim 22-21 advantage in the set before scoring the final three points to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Junior libero Emily Rochefort stifled the Stetson attack all night, racking up 27 digs from her back-row position.  Her 27 digs helped limit the opponent to a minute .094 hitting percentage.
Sophomore Caroline Carlton led the team in kills for the first time this season, pounding out 12 on 31 attempts in the match.  Her 31 swings yielded only four errors as she led the team in hitting percentage (.258) for the second-straight contest.
As a team, the Bears turned in their best blocking performance of the season.  Mercer’s 12 total team blocks were the squad’s highest block total since collecting 12 against Stetson on October 8, 2011.  Senior Jennifer Katona, senior Charlayna Braxton and Locke all contributed five block-assists to the team total.
In the most recent match-up for the Bears, the team took on the FGCU Eagles.
The Mercer volleyball team’s bid for five-straight wins came up just short as the Bears fell to Florida Gulf Coast 3-2 (25-15, 23-25, 25-13, 23-25, 13-15).
Senior Monica Sanchez turned in a career performance in the loss, tallying her fifth double-double of the year with 50 assists and 10 digs.  Her assist total bested her previous high by one and marked Mercer’s highest assist total since Madeline Dolny collected 50 on October 22, 2011.
Freshman Molly Locke and senior Jamie Duffy also had double-doubles on Saturday.  Locke crushed a match-high 20 kills and notched 17 digs, while Duffy paired 10 kills with 17 digs.  Senior Jennifer Katona led the Bears in attacking efficiency, knocking down eight kills with only a single error on 23 swings.
After the teams split the opening two sets, FGCU raced out to a 5-1 lead in the third set and ultimately cruised to a 25-13 victory.  In the fourth set, matters were tied 22-22 before a thunderous kill by Charlayna Braxton and a FGCU attacking error gave the Bears set-point.  Moments later, sophomore Caroline Carlton sent the match to a fifth set with a well-placed attack.
In the fifth set, Mercer trailed 4-0 before battling back to tie the frame at eight apiece.  Later, the set was tied 11-11 before the Eagles created separation with back-to-back points before winning the set 15-13.
Junior libero Emily Rochefort added 21 digs, three assists and a service ace in the loss.  Senior Codi Schepp had her second-straight match with double-figure digs, booking 12.
Mercer returns to action hosting Northern Kentucky on September 28.  Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m.