Panthers place third in Blazer Classic

Stefano Rivera/Contributing Writer

The women’s volleyball team had a successful opening weekend, winning The Panther Challenge. The Panthers looked to use that success as they traveled to Birmingham, Alabama, to partake in the Blazer Classic, hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The Panthers were set to take on the host and Conference USA team, UAB, on Friday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m., for their first game of the tournament. The team was taken the distance, eventually winning 25-22, 20-25, 23-25, 25-14, and 15-8 in five sets. Facing a 2-1 deficit, the team rallied behind the stellar play of Lucia Castro, Jennifer Ene, Katie Friesen, and Maria McLamb.

Castro recorded her first double-double of the season with 15 kills and 11 digs, and Ene had a hitting percentage of .343 and 15 kills, too. Friesen showed that last weekend was no fluke, as she collected 31 assists, 18 digs and 9 kills, one shy from a triple-double. McLamb’s streak of double figure digs reached a fourth straight game, as she had 11 digs. With this win, the Panthers improved to 3-0 against the Blazers. The team also picked up its first conference victory, starting off 1-0 in C-USA play.

Up next for the team was a noon matchup on Saturday, Sept. 5, against Austin Peay State University. Fresh off a 3-0 against Savannah State University, the Governors had their way against the Panthers, winning 25-11, 25-15, and 25-11 in straight sets.

The Panthers struggled mightily as they recorded a .049 hitting percentage, a season-low, and committed 19 errors. However, freshmen, Friesen and McLamb, both continued their impressive play throughout the match. Friesen finished with 13 assists, 10 digs, and 6 kills, while McLamb had 10 digs, extending her double figure streak to 5 games.

The Governors were able to contain the Panther attack by holding Castro and Ene to only 8 kills combined. The Panthers bounced back quickly from their loss as they took on Savannah State in the final game of the tournament. The Tigers came into this matchup winless with a 0-7 record. Their record did not improve as the Panthers dominated throughout, winning 25-8, 25-12 and 25-13 and forcing SSU to 32 errors and forcing them to finish with a -.158 hitting percentage.

Castro had an impressive game, as she recorded a double-double with 12 kills, 11 digs and a .413 hitting percentage, while only committing 2 errors on 24 total attempts. Friesen contributed with 19 assists and McLamb had a game-high 13 digs, extending her streak yet again. The Panthers finished the tournament 2-1 but ended up placing third overall behind Austin Peay and UAB, respectively. The team is now 4-2, the program’s second best start since beginning the 2009 season 5-1.

Up next for the Panthers is the Stetson Westin Classic in Deland, Florida, as they will take on Stetson University on Friday, Sept. 11 and Mercer University on Saturday, Sept. 12. As of now, the two teams have a combined record of 3-10. The Panthers will look to use the Blazer Classic as momentum for this upcoming event.

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