When the Cougars went into the break after the second set down 2-0 to the Georgetown Hoyas on Friday, it looked like Charleston might be going home early. But a different squad walked back onto the court and the match changed immediately as the Cougars grabbed the next three for the 3-2 victory.
Captain Darcy Dorton spoke about the shift after the match.
“Sometimes, we battle ourselves more than we battle other teams,” Dorton said. “It was mostly just remembering that this is our home court and we need to do whatever it takes to protect (it). We have to play with pride in being a Charleston athlete.”
The Friday evening match against the Hoyas marked the opening to the Holiday Inn Charleston/Mount Pleasant Tournament at TD Arena, the Cougar’s final tournament before Southern Conference play starts next weekend.
Dorton and the rest of the Cougar squad began the match fiercely, taking a 4-1 lead over the Hoyas and despite Georgetown’s attempt to close the gap, Charleston pushed the lead to 9-5.
As Georgetown inched closer, Sloane White rose up for the Cougars to push the lead back to 4, 15-11. The Hoyas just wouldn’t give up though, determined to stay in the set and with a deficit of 22-18, Georgetown called time and tightened up.
Dorton set Charleston up for set point, up 24-23, but the Hoyas stepped up and swiftly tied the set. Georgetown took their first lead since early on at 26-25 and after an intense battle from both sides of the net, took the set, 29-27.
Kerstin Koehler stepped up early in the second set for the Cougars with back-to-back kills, giving Charleston a small lead. The two squads traded points and lead changes, seemingly on every play, before tying at 10. The squads battled for every point but the Cougars were the first to 20.
After a Georgetown timeout the Hoyas took a 23-20 lead but Charleston fought back, tying at 24. Despite Charleston’s efforts to hang on, the Hoyas took the second set, 27-25.
Charleston looked reenergized after the break and the large crowed pumped up the Cougars despite going down early in the third.
The Cougars fed off the crowd’s energy and recaptured the lead, pushing it to 12-8.
The struggle for every point continued on both sides of the net and the Hoyas chased down the Cougars but never took the lead back until 22-21.
Big kills came from squad leaders Dorton and White pushed Charleston over the edge to take the set, 25-23.
Freshman Melissa Morello was pivotal for the Cougars, coming off the bench to score two of the first four points for Charleston, early in the fourth set.
High energy and high intensity from both squads dictated the fourth with both front lines making it tough for the other side to score.
Ties and lead changes continued through the fourth with Charleston never advancing by more than three points but the Cougars hit 20 first, up by three.
A block from Emily Neideffer and Taeler Davis set the Cougars up for set point and a kill from Neideffer sealed the set, 25-22.
White came into the fifth set on fire, scoring the first three points for Charleston and with help from Morello the Cougars went up, 7-4. Errors from the Cougars kept Georgetown in contention but a block from Koehler put Charleston up 10-8.
As Charleston inched closer to the win, the crowd at TD Arena was on its feet to cheer on the home team as White ended the set, 15-13, and the match 3-2.
The match was full of milestones for the Cougars, including a 20-20 performance from Dorton, who notched 20 kills and 23 digs on the evening. Davis broke three previous personal records, putting up 62 assists, 13 digs and five blocks in her first full match of the season at the setter spot.
Coach Jason Kepner was pleased with Davis’ showing: “Taeler did a great job tonight and I’m just proud of how well she played and how the team responded after going down 0-2.”
Morello came onto the scene, grabbing the attention of everyone in the arena with career highs of 11 kills and 12 digs, her first double-double of her collegiate career.
White set a new season high with 18 kills and an impressive zero errors, hitting .450 on the night.
Charleston broke their previous record in blocks, putting up 16 total, lead by nine from Koehler.
Missing from the match was setter Kallie McKown, who appeared at the game in a knee brace. Kepner spoke after the match about the position of back-up setter if the injury keeps McKown out.
“We worked a little with our one freshman, Kari (Fidelholtz), and she’s got nice hands,” Kepner said. “So we’re trying to get her into the practice a little bit to get some reps. Andi is probably another option that we would look at, but hopefully we won’t have to get to that point and Kallie won’t be out for the whole season.”