Gagliardi Excels At HI Invitational
Courtesy: UNCW Athletic Communications
CHARLESTON, South Carolina -Freshman Leah Gagliardi recorded a season-high 20 kills and fashioned a .450 hitting percentage, but host College of Charleston was able to hold on for a 3-2 (25-19, 25-17, 21-25, 20-25, 15-12) victory over UNCW in the Hampton Inn Invitational Friday at TD Arena. UNCW also fell in its first match of the day, suffering a 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-20) setback to Wyoming in earlier tournament action.
UNCW now stands at 5-8 on the season following the sweep. The Seahawks will conclude their two-day appearance in the Hampton Inn Invitational Saturday with matches against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (10 a.m.) and North Florida (5 p.m.).
"The team played with a lot of heart and passion during both of our matches today," said UNCW Head Coach Amy Bambenek. "Both matches were hard-fought, but we were unable to execute when it mattered most. Leah (Gagliardi) was unstoppable tonight and I feel that she is getting more comfortable each time she steps on the court. We still need more contributions from certain positions. Hopefully we can improve on that tomorrow."
Versus the College of Charleston, sophomore Madelyn McGinnis led a balanced Cougars attack that saw four players post double-figure kills as she finished with a match-high 26 spikes. Seniors Sarah Havel and Elyse Chubb chipped in 11 kills apiece while freshman Lizzie Theesfeld pitched in 10.
Sophomore Kallie McKown dished out a career-high 60 assists and added 14 digs to post the double-double. Junior Emily Shelton joined McKown in double figures as she tied a season high with 29 digs.
Gagliardi was one of two UNCW players to finish with double-figure kills versus the Cougars as sophomore Christi Laite tallied 15. Senior Kelsey Bendig dished out 39 assists and added 12 digs for her third double-double of the season and her second of the tournament.
Holding a slim 19-18 advantage late in a first set that featured a total of 10 ties and four lead changes, a McGinnis kill sparked the Cougars to a 6-1 run that would close out the frame and give CofC a 25-19 victory.
The second set saw the Cougars open an early 14-4 lead, only to have the Seahawks battle back and pull within three, 19-16. Following a timeout, CofC put the set out of reach, posting six of the next seven points to record a 25-17 triumph.
Facing elimination, UNCW opened up an early 10-5 advantage in the third set and never looked back on its way to a 25-21 decision.
UNCW carried the momentum into the fourth set, using a 10-3 run midway through the frame to build a 16-9 cushion. The Seahawks would stretch their lead to as many as eight later in the stanza before forcing a fifth set with a 25-20 victory.
The fifth and decisive set saw UNCW jump out to a 6-3 lead, only to have CofC battle back and knot the score at 7-all. With the two teams deadlocked at 12-12, back-to-back kills by McGinnis and Theesfeld sparked the Cougars to a 15-12 victory and the match.
Against Wyoming, junior Jodi Purdy recorded a match-best 13 kills and fashioned a .478 hitting percentage to highlight a Cowgirls lineup that combined for 41 kills and a .341 hitting percentage during the match. Senior Tamara Kitic joined Purdy in double-figure kills with 10 spikes and Rachel Rochelle dished out a match-best 32 assists to go along with 10 digs as she finished with a double-double. Sophomore Becky Stewart chipped in a team-best 13 digs to guide the Cowgirls backline.
Freshman Sarah Fitzgerald recorded a team-high 11 kills while Laite and junior Jennifer Mallard pitched in eight spikes each to lead UNCW. Bendig recorded 25 assists and added 12 digs for her second double-double of the season. Collins paced highlighted the Seahawks defensive efforts, leading all players with 14 digs.
Wyoming never trailed in the opening set, closing the first frame on an 11-2 run to stretch a two-point cushion into a 25-14 victory.
The second set saw the two sides battled to a total of seven ties until, with the score tied at 19-all, back-to-back attack errors by the Seahawks sparked the Cowgirls to a 6-2 spurt and a 25-21 triumph.
In the third set, Wyoming raced out to an early 14-7 advantage, only to see UNCW battle back and pull within two, 21-19. That would be as close as the Seahawks would get, as back-to-back kills by Purdy and junior Makenzie Bartsch led the Cowgirls to a 25-20 win and the match.