Samantha Hebb led all players with 22 kills, as the North Greenville University Crusaders outlasted the Panthers 3-1 (25-23, 17-25, 20-25, 19-25) at Leonidas S. Epps Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
Sophomore Taylor Prude and freshman Kia Thomas sparked the Panthers’ effort in Game 1. After consecutive kills by Thomas, Prude would also score consecutive kills, which gave CAU an early 9-5 lead over NGU. Brittany Warren-Dancy made her defensive presence felt with two big blocks that gave the Panthers a two-point lead midway through the set. After falling behind late in the game, Breanna Thompson’s diving dig and Prude’s subsequent kill regained momentum for the Panthers. A kill by senior Tyler Williams claimed the first game for CAU.
In Game 2, Thomas demonstrated why she was recently selected as the SIAC Newcomer of the Week. She scored three of CAU’s first five points on a block and two kills. However, the Panthers would go cold midway through the set. The Crusaders went on a 9-3 run, giving them a 19-12 lead. Prude tallied two powerful kills late, but Kenzie Pierce’s kill would clench the set for NGU.
Game 3 saw the Crusaders begin the set with a 5-0 run. Warren-Dancy reenergized CAU midway through the set with two kills and a block, bringing the Panthers within four. Thomas’s kill and follow-up ace on serve closed the gap to two, but CAU would get no closer. UNG’s Hebb won the set with her 17th kill of the match.
After trailing for most of Game 4, the Panthers would come roaring back. Warren-Dancy would tally two more blocks, and kills by Prude and Williams gave CAU a two-point lead. But the Crusaders would go on a run of their own. NGU’s Hebb opened the run with an ace on serve, and the Crusaders would score six unanswered points to take a 19-14 lead. Kills by Hebb and Katie McManaway helped capture the fourth and final game for North Greenville.
Prude led the Panthers with 10 kills, with Williams and Thomas both contributing eight kills apiece.