GREENWOOD – The Lander volleyball team rallied from down a set twice and extended its Peach Belt Conference winning streak to five matches as the Bearcats notched a wild 3-2 win over USC Aiken in a battle of the league's top two teams on Thursday night at Finis Horne Arena.
Lander (16-6, 5-1 PBC) earned its first victory over the Pacers (21-2, 5-1 PBC) since 2012.
"Just a fantastic job overall," said head coach Ashley White. "Our practice and training has been all week to put the pressure on the girls. I think these pressure situations in practice are really correlating to our matches. That was a great battle. USC Aiken is a phenomenal team. I'm pumped, 5-1 through the first round of conference play, you can not complain about that.
Madilyn Reed recorded her 10th consecutive double-double in the match, finishing with 40 assists and 21 digs. Maya Walker led Lander at the net with three solo stuffs and five block assists while Reilly Kuenstler recorded seven block assists as well. Alexa Barral chipped in six block assists for Lander. Hannah McManus led the Bearcats with 30 digs, while Boo Luther finished with 12 on the night.
Offensively, Kyra Ross led the Bearcats with 16 kills. Walker deposited 10 kills on 23 swings. Deona Mims added 13 kills, four in the final set.
Down 1-0 entering the second set, Lander built an early 4-0 lead in the second set before USC Aiken rallied to pull even at 4-4. That would mark the first of 16 ties in a set that would also feature eight lead changes. Trailing 23-21, a kill from Kyra Ross and a pair of USCA attack errors put the Bearcats up 24-23. The Pacers quickly answered with two points, but another error tied the set at 25-25. Madilyn Reed snuck a shot into an empty spot on the floor to give Lander set point and another Ross kill tied the match as the Bearcats prevailed, 27-25.
Out of the break, USCA used a 13-5 run to take control of the third set. Lander clawed back to within four points at 17-13, but the Pacers claimed the next three points and pulled away to move ahead 2-1.
In need of a win in the fourth set to stay alive, the Bearcats erased a 19-14 deficit with a 10-2 run. USC Aiken pulled within a point, but Walker's kill ended the set at 25-23 and sent the Bearcats into the fifth.
Going the distance for the third consecutive match, Lander broke an 8-8 tie with a 3-0 spurt highlighted by a pair of kills from Mims. Leading 14-11, the Bearcats turned to Walker, whose final swing of the night was deflected out of play to set off the celebration. Walker and Mims accounted for Lander's final five kills of the match.
The Bearcats return to action next Friday, Nov. 1, against UNC Pembroke. First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. in Horne Arena.
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