Senior Kaley Melville registered 20 kills and a .341 attack percentage as visiting Stetson defeated Mercer 3-0 Saturday afternoon in an Atlantic Sun Conference match at Hawkins Arena.
The Hatters (16-11, 7-5 A-Sun) rebounded from a tough 3-2 loss at Kennesaw State Friday night to win by scores of 27-25, 25-19, and 25-14.
"I was real happy that the team was able to bounce back with a win after the loss (Friday) night," Stetson head coach Tim Loesch said. "The girls played hard, like we did at the end of the (KSU) match. They were playing with a lot of energy and fighting for every point."
The Hatters jumped out to a commanding 21-14 lead in the first set, but much like the fifth set against KSU, Stetson's opponent went on a long scoring run. The Bears rattled off 10 straight points to grab a 24-21 advantage. A pair of kills from Melville plus one more from Ellen Hawks rallied the Hatters to a 24-24 tie.
Mercer regained the advantage with a kill of its own setting up the Bears' fourth set point of the frame. However, Melville and Hawks once again combined for three straight kills and the Hatters came away with the 27-25 win.
"It was real important for our team to battle through the other team making a run, and our team making a couple of errors, and still being able to win the set," Loesch said. "That was a big turnaround from yesterday. The team stuck together and found a way to pull it out. It was big emotional lift for our team."
The Hatters had an easier time in the second and third sets as they led 10-3 and 13-5 respectively and never looked back. Stetson hit .452 (15-1-31) in the second set alone and .292 for the match.
Melville recorded 10 of her 20 kills in the first set and fell just one short of a school-record for most kills in a three-set match during the rally-scoring era. It was her third 20-kill performance of the season.
"Kaley had a big match for us and almost had a double-double," Loesch said. "She also passed really well for us, and that was kind of the key. We passed well as a team, and we were able to run our offense better and hit for a higher percentage. Kayla Weller did a great job setting for us. Tiffany Creamer hit for a real high percentage as did Ellen Hawks.
Loesch said the team also played better defensively and served a lot better. The Hatters finished with five aces, including two by Madison Akins.
The victory gives Stetson its highest win total in a single-season since 1996, when the team went 17-9. The seven conference wins is a school single-season record. The Hatters are also moving closer to securing their first Atlantic Sun tournament bid since 1995.
"It was an important one for us to keep moving forward and have a shot at a playoff berth," Loesch said. "This was one we needed to have. I challenged the girls that if we want to meet our goals and win the conference tournament we have to get to the conference tournament first, and this was an important step towards that goal."
Stetson will return home to face USC Upstate and ETSU next weekend in its final two home matches of the year. Saturday will be senior day for Melville and Hawks.