SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Senior Morgan Thomas' 19 kills coupled with junior Emily Sanders' fifth double-double of the season propelled the USC Upstate volleyball team (4-9, 0-1 A-Sun) past Gardner-Webb (4-11) in five sets tonight at the Hodge Center.
After dropping the first set 25-23, Upstate knotted things up 24-24 in the second game off of a Thomas kill from Sanders. With the score tied, Thomas served her second ace of the match to give the Spartans a 25-24 lead. The Runnin' Bulldogs put her next serve in play, but Sanders dished out an assist to junior Emily Bingham, giving Upstate the 26-25 game two win.
Gardner-Webb claimed set three 25-21, however the Spartans wouldn't go away that easily and came back swinging in game four. With the score tied 22-22, back-to-back GWU attack errors gave Upstate a 24-23 advantage with sophomore more Paige Weiland serving. The Runnin' Bulldogs answered back with a kill from Lauren Evans, sending Evans to serve trailing by one. With the game on the line, Sanders' set found the hand of Thomas before finding the hardwood, sending the match into a fifth set.
In game five, a Gardner-Webb service error knotted things up at 12-12 and sent sophomore Morgan Page to serve. A Runnin' Bulldog attack error and a kill by Thomas gave the Spartans a 14-12 advantage as GWU needed a timeout. Emily Holte kept Gardner-Webb in it with a kill off of a Heather Feldman assist. With a feeling of déjà-vu from the fourth set, Sanders and Thomas hooked up again to end the set and give the Spartans the match victory.
"It was a strong team effort tonight and a good battle to watch," said Upstate head coach Jennifer Calloway. "The girls really believed they could finish all the way through to 25 and then to 15 in the fifth. I was glad to see how aggressive the team played and see us get more competitive as the match went on. I was proud to see Paige Weiland really step-up and make some things happen in game four, alongside (Thomas) and (Sanders)."
On the night, the Spartans were paced by Sanders' 52 assists and 15 digs, her fifth double-double of the season. Thomas registered a team-high 18 kills, just one shy of her career-record 19, which she set in 2008. Thomas also added seven digs and three blocks.
Four Spartans recorded double-digit digs, while four different Spartans posted double-digit kills. Page led the squad with 23 digs, while Weiland had 12 and sophomore Amanda Carroll collected 11. On the offensive side, Bingham posted 13 kills, while freshman Kayla McAvoy and senior Kelsie Queen tallied 12 and 11, respectively.
With set scores of 23-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-23 and 15-13, the point total was dead-even as each team recorded 110 points throughout the match.
The Spartans lead Gardner-Webb in the overall series 24-10 with a 13-3 advantage at home. In the teams' prior meeting Sept. 14, 2010, Upstate dropped a 3-1 decision at Gardner-Webb.