The Stetson volleyball team came up on the short end of a five-set thriller in its season opener Friday morning, falling to Jacksonville State 3-2 (21-25, 25-13, 25-15, 26-28, 15-13) at the ISTAP Invitational in Montgomery, Ala. The Hatters (0-2) also dropped an afternoon match to South Dakota 3-0 (25-11, 25-21, 25-16).
"The first match was a good match, we played hard and we followed the game plan," Stetson head coach Tim Loesch said. "Even though Jacksonville State had a statistical advantage over us in almost every category, we still had a chance to win and almost pulled it out. We didn't execute as well in the second match but a lot of the credit should go to South Dakota. They played very well."
Junior middle hitter Ellen Hawks led the Hatters with 16 kills and six blocks on the day, while senior libero Monique Russell picked up a combined 39 digs.
"I was real pleased with Ellen, she had a great match for us against Jacksonville State," Loesch said. "Mo had 28 digs which was awesome, I couldn't ask for much more from either of them. We had pretty balanced contributions from everyone else."
JACKSONVILLE STATE 3, STETSON 2
In the first match of the day, Stetson grabbed an early 1-0 lead before Jacksonville State rallied to win sets two and three. After staving off three match points to win game four 28-26, the Hatters quickly fell behind 5-1 in the decisive fifth set. After a quick rally to tie game 7-7, Stetson again fell behind 11-8 and later 14-11. Kills from Hawks and classmate Kaley Melville brought Stetson within one point of Jacksonville State, but the Gamecocks (1-0) were finally able to nail down the final point to claim the victory.
Hawks led the Hatters both offensively with 11 kills and at the net with four blocks. The defense was led by Russell who recorded a match-high 28 digs, just one shy of her career-best.
Melville finished with 10 kills and 10 digs, marking her 19th career double-double. Senior Kelli Carneal registered eight kills, 15 assists, three blocks, and a pair of aces.
Several Hatter freshmen made their collegiate debuts in the match. Outside hitter Cailyn Prewitt registered eight kills and a block assist, setter Kayla Weller collected 16 assists and four digs, middle hitter Morgan Pautsch tallied three kills and three blocks, while defensive specialist Alexa Drost picked up two digs.
Jen Meyer led Jacksonville State with 19 kills.
SOUTH DAKOTA 3, STETSON 0
In the second match of the day, South Dakota used a 10-1 run midway through the first set to grab a 1-0 lead. The second set remained a much tighter affair from start to finish, but the Coyotes put together a late spurt to move ahead 2-0 in the match.
The Hatters stayed close early in the third set, but once again a 7-1 Coyotes run midway through the frame allowed South Dakota (2-0) to finish off the 3-0 victory.
Hawks again led the Hatters with five kills and two blocks. Russell picked up 11 digs increasing her career total to 978, just 22 shy of 1000. Carneal dished out 12 assists.
Stetson will return to action at the ISTAP Invitational with two more matches on Saturday. The Hatters will face host Alabama State at 2 p.m., and then will match-up against Tennessee State at 6 p.m.