GREENSBORO, N.C. – Spartan volleyball avenged last season’s lone Southern Conference home loss Friday night against the Mercer Bears. UNCG overcame a slow start to earn a 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 18-25, 25-14) victory in Fleming Gymnasium. After trailing at 20-11 in the first set, UNCG battled back to take set 25-23 getting four kills from Emily Keilen (Plano, Texas/Round Rock) in an 11-1 run. Keilen set a new career best with 13 kills in the match. The Spartans improved to 9-6 and are now 2-1 in the Southern Conference. Mercer falls to 5-9 and 1-2 in SoCon play.
Three Spartans tallied double-digit kills in the victory. Ashley Muench (Hurdle Mills, N.C./Orange) led all players with 17 kills on 45 attacks. Annchara Montgomery (Indianapolis Ind./Illinois State) and Keilen had career nights. Montgomery tied her career best with 14 kills, while Keilen set a new career mark with 13 kills, hitting at a .440 average.
Allison Penner (Aurora, Neb./Aurora) recorded 48 assists in the match and added 16 digs. Christina Gregory (Louisville, Ky./Sacred Heart Academy) led all competitors with 17 digs and added three assists.
UNCG started the first set very slow, falling behind 20-11. The Spartans rallied for an 11-1 run to take the lead at 22-21. Keilen contributed to the run with four kills. Montgomery and Mercer’s Emily Krogman exchanged kills to get the match tied at 23. Muench pushed it to set point after her fifth kill of the set and a Mercer ball handling error gave the Spartans the first set.
The Spartans were in control throughout the second set, leading by as many as six at 17-11. Mercer battled back and cut the lead down to two at 23-21 following an Emilee Wissmach service ace. A Muench kill forced set point before Mercer prolonged the set on a Danielle Faust kill. Mercer went back to Faust on the second set point but Penner and Mikaela Weidmann (Roswell, Ga./Centennial) denied her attack to give UNCG the 2-0 lead headed into the intermission.
Mercer managed to take the third set after hitting at a .400 average as a team. After being tied at nine, the Bears scored seven of the next nine points to push its lead to 16-11. A couple Spartan attack errors aided the Bears in the run. With Mercer leading 21-14, the Spartans scored back-to-back points, forcing Mercer to call a timeout. The Bears came out of the timeout and scored four of the next six to take the third set.
UNCG responded to the third set loss and held Mercer to a negative hitting percentage in the fourth set. The Spartans took an early lead at 3-2 and pushed its lead to 8-3 before Mercer called its first timeout. UNCG went on another 4-0 run before the Bears had to call their final timeout with the Blue and Gold up 14-7. The Bears again cut the lead down to 18-13 before the Spartans closed the match out on a 7-1 run with Mercer’s lone point coming on a Spartan ball handling error. Keilen, Montgomery, Muench and Weidmann all added kills, with a Penner and Weidmann block assist adding to the run.
The Spartans are back in action tomorrow evening as they host the Samford Bulldogs at 5 p.m. in Fleming Gym on Dig Pink night. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to support breast cancer awareness.