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GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG volleyball rallied from down 2-1 to take the fourth set but could not outlast the Samford Bulldogs Saturday evening inside Fleming Gymnasium. The Spartans and Bulldogs split the first four sets (25-23, 23-25, 25-14, 25-27) before Samford rallied to take the fifth set, 16-14. UNCG falls to 9-7 on the season and is 2-2 in Southern Conference play. Samford improves to 8-10, and 3-1 in the SoCon.

“This was a really tough one tonight.” Head coach Corey Carlin said, “You have to credit Samford for the adjustments they made and the way they stayed assertive. We did a great job of getting them out of system, playing fairly clean offensively and taking good swings out of system, which has been a focus. I’m proud of the way we responded in that regard. Samford just came up with a few more plays than we did tonight, and that was the difference.”

“I really think as we take steps forward, this team is going to continue to grow and reach a new level.” Carlin continued, “We all know what were capable of. I’m proud of the work that we’re putting in the gym, so I have complete faith that we’ll learn from this, we’ll grow, we’ll get stronger and we’ll be ready for our next match.”

Senior Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) paced the Spartan offense, going for a match-best 20 kills. The outside hitter added ten digs and earned her fifth double-double on the season. Holly Behrends (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) added 14 kills; with sophomore middle hitter Mikaela Weidmann (Roswell, Ga./Centennial) adding a career-best 10 kills.

Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) tallied 50 assists and ten digs in the match, good for her second-straight double-double and eighth on the season. Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) led the match with 32 digs, with senior Anna Romaniszyn (Port Orange, Fla./Spruce Creek) adding 17.

The first set was tight as the Spartans held the largest lead in the set at 11-7. Samford rallied to go on a 5-1 run to tie the match up at 12. The teams continued to exchange points as the set was tied at 22 after a Muench kill. After a Samford timeout, the Bulldogs benefitted from a Spartan service error and attack error to go up 24-22. After a Samford service error forced a second set point, Krista Boesing ended the match on her third kill.

The Spartans led from wire-to-wire to tie the match up in the second set, but never more than six points. UNCG’s largest lead came after back-to-back kills from Behrends and Muench put the Spartans up 18-12. Samford wouldn’t go away as the Bulldogs pulled within one at 23-22 following a 4-0 run. Muench tallied two of the last three kills to give UNCG the second set and tie the match 1-1 at the intermission.

The third set was dominated by the Bulldogs down the stretch. With the match tied at 10, the Bulldogs went on to score 15 of the next 19 points, including 7-0 run. Samford capitalized on four aces and hit at a .286 clip in the set. The Spartan offense struggled as it hit six kills and six errors on 30 attacks.

UNCG showed grit in the fourth set as the Bulldogs and Spartans were tied 18 times with eight lead changes before the Spartans got the win. Behrends was a key contributor down the stretch. With the set tied at 25, the freshman notched her fourth kill of the set and connected on her third service ace of the season. The Spartans tallied 14 kills in the set, with Muench and Behrends leading the way. The UNCG block was working as the Spartans tallied seven block assists, led by Weidmann’s three in the set.

The final set was another close one as the abbreviated set featured nine ties and four lead changes. UNCG led late, following a kill from Emily Keilen (Plano, Texas/Round Rock) at 13-12. After a Samford timeout, a Spartan service error and attack error gave the Bulldogs a 14-13 lead. A Samford attack error tied the match at 14 before a Bulldog block and a UNCG attack error finished the set at 16-14 and gave Samford the match.

Spartan volleyball is back in action next Friday in Spartanburg, South Carolina as it will take on the Wofford Terriers at 6 p.m.