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Catamounts drops five set thrillers to Southern Miss in NIVC quarterfinals

 


CULLOWHEE, NC sophomore Bailey Hartsough tied a career-high with 22 kills and Cheerful call registered her 14e double-double of the season with 16 kills and a career-best 21 digs as Western Carolina dropped a 3-2 heartthrob to Southern Miss in front of a record crowd of 1,110 boisterous fans on Ingles Court at the Ramsey Center on Wednesday night. Southern Miss won the match by scores of 25-22, 15-25, 25-15, 22-25 and 12-15.

The Golden Eagles will advance to the semifinals of the NIVC and will face Boston College, who defeated Xavier in five sets Wednesday night in Chestnut Hill, Mass. Western Carolina sees its historic season end with a 20-13 record. WCU’s 20 wins were the most since a 22-win campaign in 2002.

Hartsough tied her career-best 22 kills against Furman in the 2022 regular season finale. She also scored a double-double with 14 digs defensively. Gebel caps off her incredible collegiate career with 69 double-doubles, 1,693 kills and 1,461 digs. Senior John Robinson led the Catamounts with four solo blocks and eight total blocks. Junior Destine Dorsey had a career-best 33 digs. sophomore Sarah Janourova dished out a team-best 25 assists, followed by fifth-year senior Sydney Carson with 21.

Cara Atkinson rode Southern Miss with 19 kills, followed by Mia Wesley with 18 and Reagan Leinen with 10. Megan Harris had a team-best 32 digs. Kenzie Smith handed out no less than 56 assists.

The opening set featured five lead changes and 10 draws. The Catamounts took a 17-14 lead in the middle phase of the set before the Golden Eagles tied the frame at 20 thanks to a Leinen kill. After Southern Miss tied the set at 22, a Livi Weidman kill put WCU ahead 23-22 before WCU relied on a solo block from Robinson, followed by a combination from Robinson and Weidmann to close out the set and take an early game lead.

Southern Miss drove to tie the game early in the second set, jumping out to a 10-3 lead and leading by no less than nine points down the stretch as they tied the game at one apiece.

Tied at six in the third set, an error by Southern Miss led to a 4-0 WCU sprint. After a Wesley kill brought the Golden Eagles within three, 11-8, the Catamounts used an 8-1 run capped by a Gebel kill to get separation. WCU led by 10 points in the frame as a Robinson kill clinched the set to give the hosts a 2–1 lead in the game.

After a Robinson block that cut Southern Miss’s lead to 16-15 in the fourth set, the Golden Eagles scored five of the next six runs to lead 21-16. WCU fought back to draw within two, 21-19 on a Robinson block before a Wesley kill gave the Golden Eagles set point at 24-20. WCU took the next two points before a kill from Gillian Hidalgo closed the stanza and forced a fifth set.

WCU led 8-7 halfway through the decisive fifth. However, with the score tied at nine, an Atkinson kill followed by a WCU foul put Southern Miss ahead 11-9. An error by the Golden Eagles brought WCU within one point, 12-11, but a WCU service error and a Leinen kill gave the Golden Eagles match point, 14-11. A long rally ended with a Golden Eagle foul to make it 14-12 before Leinen ended the game with a kill. The fifth set had two substitutions and five draws.

Stay up to date with all things Catamount Volleyball and WCU Athletics through the social media channels on Facebook (fb.com/catamountsports), Instagram (@wcu_catamounts, @catamountvb) and Twitter (@catamounts, @catamountvb).

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