The Stetson volleyball earned its first five-set victory of the season Friday night as the Hatters defeated Norfolk State 3-2 (25-19, 25-17, 23-25, 22-25, 15-9) at the Spartan Classic. The Hatters (3-8) earned a split on the day after falling to UNC Wilmington 3-0 (25-11, 25-8, 25-22) earlier in the afternoon.
Norfolk State rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force the fifth set, and the Spartans led 7-6 midway through the decisive frame. But the Hatters blocking game really stepped up down the stretch, starting with a block assist by Kelli Carneal and Ellen Hawks that put Stetson ahead 8-7 at the changeover.
A Norfolk State kill evened the score 8-8, but Kaley Melville answered with a kill of her own to ignite a game-winning 7-1 run by Stetson.
Two points later it was Melville, Hawks, and Morgan Pautsch assisting on a three-way block, Carneal followed with a service ace, and another block by Hawks and Melville put Stetson ahead 13-8. Melville added two more kills to clinch the victory.
"I am proud of our girls for hanging in there and sticking with the gameplan, and for getting our first win in five sets this year," Stetson head coach Tim Loesch said. "I would have rather had it in three, but I'm glad we were able to battle through some adversity and get the victory."
Melville's 19 kills tied a career-high and her six blocks set a career-high. She also added eight digs and three aces, and factored in five of the Hatters points during the late 7-1 run.
"It was Kaley's turn to step up and have a big game for us," Loesch said. "She did it very intelligently - she picked the right times to take big swings and the setters did a great job of feeding her the ball."
Stetson appeared as if it would cruise to a straight set victory took after benefitting from a 20-12 lead in set one and a 13-2 lead in set two. But the Spartans began their comeback with a two-point victory in set three, and then pushed the match to a fifth set with a 25-22 win in set four.
The Hatters had previously fallen in five sets to Jacksonville State and Florida Atlantic. Friday's third attempt at a five-set victory turned out to be the charm.
Stetson recorded a 11.5 blocks, one shy of their season-high.
"The blocking game was pretty effective early, but they made some adjustments and we had to make some readjustments," Loesch said. "The kids executed under high pressure."
Hawks recorded eight blocks against the Spartans, just one shy of her career high. Carneal finished with five kills, 24 assists, 10 digs, and three aces, Monique Russell picked up 21 digs, and Kayla Weller dished out 20 assists.
"It was a great all-around team effort, but Kelli Carneal was crucial for us tonight and Kayla Weller did a great job executing down the stretch," Loesch said.
Earlier in the day, UNC Wilmington posted a .397 attack percentage en route to the straight sets victory.
Melville led the Hatters with nine kills, while Cailyn Prewitt recorded seven kills. Carneal registered 14 assists, three blocks and two aces. Taylor Story also had two aces for the Hatters.
The Seahawks (5-3) posted 34 kills in the match while recording just seven errors. UNC Wilmington helped stifle the Hatters offense with 10 blocks and 38 digs
Stetson will wrap up the Spartan Classic at 10 a.m. Saturday with a match against Rutgers (8-1).