Aiken, S.C. – The Lander volleyball team (5-1) went one for two in Friday's opening day of the USC Aiken Volleyball Invitational. The Bearcats fell to Anderson (4-1) in the first match of the day by a score of three games to one, but then rebounded in the second match against Barton (2-4) winning 3-2.
The Bearcats fell behind early against the Trojans in the first match, dropping the first set 26-24 and the second 25-19. Lander rallied in the third set behind four kills each from sophomore outside hitter Jessica Johnson and senior outside hitter Kristin Martindale to take the 25-22 victory. However Anderson responded in the fourth set with a decisive 25-12 win behind four kills from sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Hughes to take the 3-1 match win.
Sophomore outside hitter Reilly Kuenstler recorded a season-high seven kills for Lander in the loss. Martindale and sophomore right side hitter Dale Rogers led all Bearcats with 10 kills. Junior setter Sophia Perkins tallied a team-high 24 assists, while sophomore libero Hannah McManus topped all Bearcats with 20 digs.
In Lander's second match of the day, the Bearcats again dropped the first set after commanding the lead for the game's first 31 points. With the score tied at 21, Barton took the lead behind a kill from junior middle back Allie Cullens and never looked back as the Bulldogs took the next four points en route to the 25-21 win.
The Bearcats responded with a vengeance in the next two sets with a convincing 25-12 win in the third and a 25-21 victory in the fourth. Freshman right side hitter Hannah Hritz went for a combined six kills for the Bearcats in the two games.
In the fifth game, Lander and Barton battled in a back and forth affair that saw the lead exchanged four times in the early going. With the score tied at 23 in the set's final moments, freshman outside hitter Kaytlin Elkins willed the Bulldogs to the 25-23 win after recording two straight kills to extend the match to one final game.
Lander showcased their composure in the fifth set as the Bearcats stood fast after the dramatic fourth set loss and never trailed in the decisive fifth game. The Bearcats rolled to the 15-7 victory to defeat the Bulldogs three games to two and notch their fifth win on the season.
Hritz led Lander with 16 kills. Perkins poured in a team-high 23 assists, while McManus led the Bearcats with 29 digs. Freshman outside hitter Megan Faris had a career day as the Myrtle Beach native recorded a personal best 25 digs.
Lander will be back in action tomorrow at the USC Aiken Volleyball Invitational with a 10 a.m. match against Valdosta State (4-1) and a 4 p.m. tilt against Mount Olive (3-3).