Volleyball’s Post-Storm Return Marked by Weekend Split

Tirae Stevens, Staff Writer

After 13 days of inaction due to Hurricane Matthew and mandatory evacuation, the Armstrong State volleyball team returned to action for the weekend of October 14-15.

Friday, October 14 saw the Pirates fall to the Francis Marion Patriots with a score of 3-1 in Florence, South Carolina, marking their first loss of the season to a Peach Belt Conference team. The loss also snapped the Lady Pirates’ 10-match winning streak. Set scores were 25-19, 25-17, 20-25, 25-12.

Hitting errors contributed to the Pirates’ defeat, as they only managed a season-low .120 hitting percentage and committing 21 hitting errors. Defensively, the Patriots also outdug the Pirates 73-55. The Pirates gave effort during the match, led by sophomore Raquel Kulak and her 13 kills and six blocks. “Having time off practice definitely presented the team with a challenge that we hadn’t faced yet,” senior Brittany Hereth explained. “When we came back, it took some getting used to and that showed in Friday’s match.”

The Pirates came back much stronger the next day, staying at the Francis Marion University campus to take on and defeat the UNC Pembroke Braves 3-0. Set scores were 25-23, 25-17, 26-24. UNC Pembroke led early in the first set, but Armstrong State rallied back to tie up the set at 23-all. Back-to-back kills from sophomore Raegan Grooms allowed the Pirates to take the first set. Strong defensive effort allowed the Pirates to keep the Braves at a -.075 hitting percentage, which contributed to the Pirates winning the second set. During the third set, the Pirates had a six-point advantage but the Braves rallied back to tie the set at 24-all. Sophomore Madison Sox scored a kill to put the score at 25-24, and a service ace from Grooms helped clinch the set and match for the Pirates.

Offensively, senior Rachel Thompson led Armstrong State with 10 kills and four blocks. Both Grooms and senior Kim Brody added nine kills of their own. Sophomore Carley Eiken contributed 32 assists, and junior Iva Scepanovic notched 22 digs, four assists, and two service aces. “Today’s play was more of how we normally play, though it still isn’t our prestige game,” sophomore Kristi Vaughn explained, comparing the win against the Braves to the loss against the Patriots. “We communicated more effectively with one another while making sure to take care of the things we can control.”

The weekend allowed the Pirates’ record to go to 15-2 overall and 5-1 in the Peach Belt Conference. This was definitely pleasing to head coach Will Condon. “We are 15-2 and only two of those matches have been played on our home court. That’s impressive,” he said. Now that things are back to normalcy, the Pirates look to finish out their season on a high note. “Now that we are all back on campus and safe, we are ready to go back to the normal of working hard together and finishing out the season strong,” Hereth declared.

Armstrong State returns to action Friday, October 21, travelling to Greenwood, South Carolina, to take on the Lander University Bearcats.