The crowds are getting larger, the drama is getting more intense, and the Hatters just keep on winning.
The Stetson University volleyball team won its seventh consecutive match and moved into sole possession of first-place in the Atlantic Sun with a 3-1 victory over Kennesaw State Saturday evening at the Edmunds Center.
In a seesaw match that featured long rallies, powerful attacks, huge blocks, and late game momentum swings, the Hatters (13-5, 4-0 A-Sun) outlasted the Owls (6-8, 1-3) by scores of 29-27, 26-24, 23-25, 25-22 to remain unbeated in conference play and at home.
"It wasn't the prettiest volleyball, but our girls showed a lot of heart and determination," Stetson head coach Tim Loesch said. "I loved that the girls were confident at the end of games, and I was confident in them. They executed under pressure. They were loud, aggressive, and confident, and that is just really important. Even the one that we lost we were doing what we wanted to do."
In the first set, the Hatters survived two Kennesaw State set points before Cailyn Prewitt's kill broke a 27-27 tie. The Hatters won the set on an Owls' attack error.
Set two finished in nearly the same fashion as a Creamer kill and a KSU attack error lifted Stetson to a 26-24 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Owls extended the match with a two-point win in set three, and nearly forced a fifth frame as they led 19-16 late in set four. However, the Hatters battled back, and Ellen Hawks and Prewitt combined for a big block late to help Stetson nail down the win.
"Hats off to KSU, they played hard as well," Loesch said. "It was a real scrappy, well-fought match. Even though the stats were not real pretty with high hitting percentages, that was a tribute to both teams playing hard."
Freshman Tiffany Creamer led the Hatters with 16 kills, Kaley Melville notched her second straight double-double with 14 kills and 10 digs, Ellen Hawks had 11 kills and five blocks, while Erika White added nine kills and two blocks.
Kayla Weller also registered a double-double of 47 assists and 12 digs. Michelle Kastner led the team with 17 digs.
Kelly Marcinek had a 20-kill performance for Kennesaw State (6-8, 1-3).
"Tiffany Creamer led us in kills again as a freshman, which is awesome," Loesch said. "She faced a big block again and found ways to be successful. Mel Melville did a lot of good hitting and blocking, she served well for us and passed well for us. The two middles Ellen Hawks and Erika White also had big matches.
"The whole team stayed really positive, even though we couldn't serve one game, and our passing struggled the next," Loesch said. "Everyone worked hard to try and figure things out. Kayla Weller did a great job of running our offense even when things weren't going well. The whole team kept working together, fighting hard for every point, and good things happened at the end."
With the victory, Stetson moved past idle ETSU (3-0 A-Sun) into the top spot in the league standings. The Hatters also stayed unbeaten at home (9-0), and they have won 12 of their last 14 games overall.
Stetson will visit Florida Atlantic at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Notes: At 13-5, the Hatters are off to their best start in school history (records date back to 1980) ... Stetson is 4-0 in the A-Sun for the first time since 2002 ... The Hatters also have nine home wins for the first time since 2002 ... Stetson is the only Division I team in the state of Florida to currently have 13 wins this season ... Stetson's 13 wins equals their total for the previous two seasons combined ... Stetson's seven-match win streak also ties a school record. The team's two other seven-game win streaks came in 1985 and 1988 ... The match featured a combined 36 ties including 14 coming with the score knotted at 20 points or more.