Samford wins pair of volleyball matches

The Samford Bulldogs (13-1) finished the weekend with two more three-set victories, defeating host Bethune-Cookman (5-7) and Hampton (2-6).  The Bulldogs defeated all of their opponents this weekend in three sets, bringing their season total to nine sweeps.

"I'm proud of our team for handling such a difficult schedule," said Head Coach Derek Schroeder.  "Four matches in 24 hours would challenge any team mentally.

"Lauren Hutchinson and Casey Garvey were very deserving All-Tournament selections.  Our offense was very efficient and Lauren was the best player in the gym at the net.  It was nice to be able to rest Elizabeth Neisler and Katie Murphy today and still come away with two three-set victories."

With Neisler and Murphy on the bench, Hutchinson earned the majority of the kills Saturday, accounting for 25 of Samford's 88.  Her total for the entire weekend was 47 on 80 total attempts.  Taylor Palmer played well in her first two starts of the season, earning 17 kills on 30 total attempts.  Garvey set the offensive tempo, earning 76 of the team's 80 assists.

Match One: Samford 3, Bethune-Cookman 0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-21) Samford started the day early, taking on host team Bethune-Cookman in an 8 a.m. matchup that resulted in another 3-0 Samford sweep.  The Bulldogs played with different lineups, allowing Palmer to have her first double-digit kill match of the season, earning 10 and leading the team with a .643 hitting percentage.  Reesor played tall at the net, earning 2.5 of the team's six blocks.

An early 3-1 lead by the Wildcats would be their largest of the first game, as Samford regained the lead shortly thereafter and maintained the close gap until the end.  Samford's strong play up front prevented the Wildcats from gaining any momentum, not allowing them to ever earn two consecutive points past the 10-point mark.  Samford would gain a five-point lead up 22-17 and would maintain that to a five-point win in the first game.

The streak of not allowing the Wildcats to earn two consecutive points carried over into the second game, with Samford jumping ahead 8-4 before Bethune-Cookman scored two to narrow the lead to 8-6.  Up 13-9, Samford scored five unanswered points, finished off by a Taylor Chao service ace, to gain a hefty nine-point lead.  With the score 20-10, Bethune-Cookman retaliated with their own five-point rally but it was too little too late as Samford eventually went on to win 25-17.

The Bulldogs scored fast out of the gate in game three, pulling ahead 7-2 after three successful services by Bauer.  The gap would narrow slowly throughout the game, with Bethune-Cookman eventually tying it up at 18-18.  Palmer and Reesor would be a valuable duo in the end, as they teamed up for a block to put Samford up 20-18 and earned kills down the stretch eventually giving Samford the 25-21 win.

Match Two: Samford 3, Hampton 0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-22) The Bulldogs finished the weekend as strongly as they started it, earning their fourth-consecutive 3-0 victory to close out the Bethune-Cookman Tournament.  Hutchinson took control of the outside, leading the match with 15 kills, the only player to hit double-digits.  Garvey controlled the offense extremely well, accounting for 39 of the team's 42 assists, her highest total of the tournament.

The tempo was in Samford's favor early on, as a Chelsi Carter kill gave them a 4-3 lead and Bauer followed that with four consecutive serves to bring the lead to 8-3 and force the Hampton timeout.  A Hampton service error shortly after the timeout would give Reesor her own four-point service rally, giving the Bulldogs a 13-5 lead midway through the set.  The Pirates would fight back to within five, and the Bulldogs would take a timeout up 16-11.  The remainder of the set was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team earning more than two points in a row, but ultimately Samford would come out on top 25-17.

Samford built an early 7-3 lead in the second set, but Hampton retaliated quickly to tie the set up at 7-7.  Tied 12-12, the Bulldogs rattled off four unanswered points, including two service aces by Carter, to pull ahead 16-12.  It would be the longest sustained rally of the game, as points were traded for the rest of the set.  Up 20-18, Samford would outscore the Pirates 5-2 with Hutchinson earning two kills in that stretch to help secure the 25-20 victory.

Neither team took control in the first half of game three, with Hampton holding a one-point lead halfway at 13-12.  There would be six lead changes between that point and when Samford took a 20-19 lead to force a Hampton timeout late.  Samford scored three in a row to pull ahead 24-20, but then Hampton answered with two of their own to draw within two points.  Hampton had possession at the match point, but a service error gave Samford the 25-22 set and 3-0 match victory.

Samford opens its conference slate on the road next weekend, first facing Appalachian State on Friday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. ET.  The following day they will travel to Western Carolina and play at 2 p.m.