(Photo: UNCP Athletics) Makaylah Elliott led UNCP with 12 kills against Claflin
The UNCP volleyball team snapped a four-match losing streak with a 3-1 (26-24, 25-18, 17-25, 25-19) victory over Claflin on Thursday night.
Makaylah Elliott led the Braves (4-14, 0-5 PBC) with 12 kills to go along with eight block assists. Cayce Bell tallied a team-high 20 digs, leaving the senior just 85 away from 1,000 career digs.
“It was great to get a win at home,” head coach Ellen McGill said. “I think we executed well at times and played well together, and it was just a really fun game.”
UNCP was originally scheduled to play Claflin (4-10) on Sept. 12, but the match was postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Irma.
The Panthers scored the first three points of the opening set, but UNCP caught up quickly and withstood multiple rallies by the visitors to earn a 26-24 victory.
After a kill by Claflin’s Jordan Wallace put the Panthers up 6-5, Madelyn Ashwell responded with one of her own to ignite a 6-0 run for the Braves.
UNCP continued to gain momentum and ultimately took a commanding 17-9 lead after a service ace by Bailee Jones. Claflin rallied by scoring 11 of the next 12 points to take a 20-18 advantage.
UNCP was quick to close the deficit, using another kill by Ashwell and an attack error by Wallace to knot the set at 20-20.
Diara Lewis then put the Panthers up 21-20, but that would be Claflin’s last lead of the set. UNCP took advantage of an Amber Tyndall service ace and an attack error by the visitors to put themselves into position to win with a 24-21 lead.
After the Panthers tied the score again with three consecutive scores, a pair of errors helped the Braves pull away with the victory.
The Braves used a 4-0 run to jump out to a 19-11 lead in the second set, and Claflin’s attempts at a comeback fell short as UNCP won 25-18.
Claflin never held the lead in the set, although they remained within striking distance of the hosts early on. UNCP didn’t go up by more than three until a 6-0 run gave them a 15-9 advantage.
Down 21-13 after a kill by Elly Hicks, Claflin surged for a 5-1 run that closed the gap. That would be the last chance for the Panthers to retaliate. Ashwell, Cayce Bell and Amber Tyndall rattled off a trio of kills to end the set.
Claflin took an early lead in the third set and didn’t look back, avoiding a sweep with a 25-17 triumph over the Braves.
The Braves fell behind 11-6 after a kill from Claflin’s Jala Roberts, but several errors by the visitors pulled UNCP to within 12-10. A 7-3 run by the Panthers helped them begin to pull away, and a 3-0 run later in the set gave Claflin a 22-14 lead.
Wallace ultimately was responsible for the game-winning kill that kept the visitors in the match.
UNCP recovered from Claflin’s rally in the third game to win the match with 25-19 victory in the final set.
The teams exchanged leads early in the set until a kill by Kiara Price started a 3-0 run that gave the Braves a 13-10 lead.
The Panthers didn’t allow UNCP to sustain momentum, evening the set at 16-16 after an attack error by the Braves.
The hosts took control from there, scoring nine of the last 12 points to seal the victory.
UNCP finished with 10 less errors (26) than the Panthers (36). The Braves also topped Claflin in blocks (13-7) and hitting percentage (UNCP .081 percent, Claflin .065 percent).
The Braves travel to Florida to continue Peach Belt Conference action against Flagler on Oct. 7. The team will then take part in the Coker Tri-Match on Oct. 14, where they take on Coker and Wingate.
Brandon Tester directs sports coverage at the Pine Needle. You can follow him on Twitter: @Tester_Brandon