The Samford University volleyball team took down its second consecutive top-ranked SoCon opponent Sunday in a 3-0 sweep of Elon. After Samford's win over UNC Greensboro on Saturday, Elon moved into first place in the North Division with a win over Chattanooga. However, Samford (13-14, 7-6 SoCon) came up with its third SoCon upset in the last week with a win over Elon (15-13, 6-5 SoCon) in the Pete Hanna Center Sunday.
Samford has now won five of its last six matches. If Samford continues its winning ways on the road next week, the Bulldogs could move into first place in the North Division with a tie and be headed for their third straight SoCon Tournament appearance.
"I think it's one of those situations where we are coming into our own at the right time," Samford head coach Derek Schroeder said. "Those are two very good volleyball teams that came in here this weekend. I can't believe how well Elon passed the ball. And for a team to be in system as well as they were today and for us to defend as well as we did – I'm very surprised. That showed a lot of character, and it showed a lot of just sticking to our system and knowing that we will win in the end."
The Bulldogs and the Phoenix battled it out in three close sets but it was Samford that would make the plays to come out on top this time. The three-set battle saw 19 tied scores and nine lead changes, and had the Bulldogs hitting over .300 as a team for their third straight match and their seventh of the season. Samford posted an impressive .433 hitting percentage in set one, only committing three attack errors as a team. The Bulldogs also knocked down 24 kills in set three, holding Elon to just 13 in the set.
Elizabeth Neisler posted her second consecutive 20-kill match and her third of the season. She tallied 20 kills and hit .308 while also adding a dig to her stat line. Lauren Hutchinson followed with 17 kills and hit .583 against the Phoenix. That marks the sixth time she has hit over .500 in a match this year. She also tallied two aces, matched a career high in digs with four and posted a career-high two solo blocks.
"Neisler and Lauren have been incredible all month long," Schroeder said. "They have been huge for us offensively and defensively." Allie Bettinger posted her second double-double of the season with 10 kills and 11 digs. She hit .450 on the day, only committing one error and also had a block assist. Hillary Fountain had five kills and hit .267 while also grabbing nine digs, two aces and one assist. Taylor Palmer knocked down four kills in her second start at home and came up with a dig and a block assist as well.
Alexis Bauer led the back row with 14 digs while also adding an ace. Samantha Bland added eight digs and an assist while Lyndsey Holt also grabbed a dig.
Sarah Schermerhorn and Lauren Copenhagen led Elon with 10 kills each. Schermerhorn hit a team-high .625 with no errors on 16 attempts. Megan McMahon dished out 33 assists while Ali Deatsch had 11 digs followed by McMahon with seven.
Samford moves into the home stretch next weekend as it takes its final road trip of the season. The Bulldogs will face Western Carolina on Saturday and a tough Appalachian State team who is tied for first place in the North on Monday. The Bulldogs have clinched the North Division title the last two years against the Mountaineers – first in Boone, N.C., and last year at home. They have also played five sets the last two times the Bulldogs have visited Appalachian State. This road trip with be a huge test for the Bulldogs and Schroeder is set to prepare his team.
"We are not a great road team, but that is because of age," Schroeder said. "So, we are going to talk about it this week and we are going to talk about maturity, and I'm going to tell them that I'm going to get tough on them this week because things are going to be tough on the road. If they can respond well to that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and travel on Friday, we will be just fine."
The match against Western Carolina on Saturday begins at 3 p.m. while Appalachian State and Samford will face off on Monday at 2 p.m.