A dominant third set helped spark the Stetson University volleyball team to its sixth straight win, 3-1 (25-22, 18-25, 25-12, 25-20) over visiting Mercer Friday night in an Atlantic Sun Conference match at the Edmunds Center.
With the victory, the Hatters (12-5) improved to 3-0 in the league and moved into a first-place tie with ETSU in the standings. Stetson also improved to a perfect 8-0 at home.
The Hatters got off to a slow start, and found themselves tied with Mercer (1-12, 0-3) at the intermission. Stetson exploded in the third set, running out to a 10-3 lead and forcing the Bears to burn both of their timeouts early. The Hatters continued to pound away in the frame, piling up 18 kills and three blocks en route to a 13-point victory.
"I challenged them with some things during the break, (knowing) we could play better and that we weren't playing our brand of volleyball," Stetson head coach Tim Loesch said. "A lot of the things that went wrong were in our control, and they took ownership of it and corrected those things."
Mercer battled back in the fourth set as the Bears led 19-18 and forced a 20-20 tie. However, the Hatters rattled off the final five points, three coming via a kill, a block solo, and a block assist from Ellen Hawks, to close out the victory.
"I was proud of the girls for staying confident, staying aggressive, staying loud, and playing together as a team," Loesch said. "It was really a team effort to get through it, not just scoring points, but staying together as a team, staying positive, and staying aggressive. Everybody stepped up when they were called on."
Stetson had a strong offensive showing, hitting .307 as a team. Four players reached double figures in kills, led by Kaley Melville's 15-kill, 15-dig double-double performance. Tiffany Creamer and Hawks each notched a dozen kills, and Erika White added 10.
"The hitters did amazing tonight," sophomore setter Kayla Weller said. "I could set the ball to any one of them and know that the ball was going to go down. It kept (the Bears) on their toes because they didn't know where we were going."
Weller finished with 54 assists, her fifth time this season over 50 or more assists. Michelle Kastner added 17 digs, while Hawks (six blocks) and Madison Akins (five blocks) defended the net well.
"We did a really good job of communicating where our hitter was," Akins said. "They would try to stack the hitter in a different spot, and we would communicate that on the block. We just did a good job of talking, fronting our hitter, knowing what they were running, and going up there and blocking."
The Hatters will go for their seventh win a row at 5 p.m. Saturday vs. Kennesaw State.
Notes: Stetson is 3-0 in A-Sun play for the first time since 2002 ... The Hatters are 11-2 in their last 13 games ... Stetson hit .485 (18-2-33) in the third set alone ... Hawks hit .556 for the match (12-2-18) ... Kaley Melville was honored before the match for her 1000 career digs.