Volleyball falls to Centre in four sets

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The Birmingham-Southern volleyball team opened its final conference homestand of the regular season Saturday afternoon with a tough 3-1 loss to visiting Centre College at Bill Battle Coliseum.

BSC is now 16-7 on the season and 5-6 in Southern Athletic Association play. The win improves Centre to 17-4 overall and 9-2 in the SAA.

Set one was a close affair with three lead changes and nine ties before Centre eventually claimed the 28-26 win. Centre made the first significant run of the match, breaking a 6-6 tie with four straight points for the 10-6 lead. Down 13-10, BSC then rattled off four straight points of their own, powered by two kills from junior Katie O'Bar, for a 14-13 lead. Centre responded by taking seven of the next eight points for a 20-15 lead. The Panthers rallied their way back to even the set at 22 after a kill from junior Meredith Lee. The two teams stayed within a point of each other until Centre scored three straight to take the set.

The next set started similarly to the first with neither team pulling more than two points ahead until the Panthers earned five straight points to take a lead they would never relinquish. Up 8-7, two kills from senior Alex Bothe, an ace from freshman Lynsie Byrd, and a kill from junior Kathleen Pfitzer paced the impressive run. The 25-19 set win evened the match at a set apiece.

The back-and-forth nature of the match continued in the third set with both teams trading early three-point runs to square the match at 10-10. The teams would play to seven more ties before three straight points clinced the set for Centre, 30-28.

Centre came out strong in the fourth set to take a 10-3 lead. BSC answered with six straight points on the strength of two kills from Byrd and an ace from Bothe to pull within one at 10-9. However, that would be as close as the Panthers would get in the decisive set that was won by Centre, 25-22.

Bothe led the Panthers with a game-high 15 kills, followed by O'Bar with 11 kills of her own. The offensive effort was aided by sophomore Emily Dang's game-high 26 assists. Defensively, sophomore Lauren Bedford paced the Panthers with a game-high 38 digs. At the net, BSC was led by freshman Laura van Peursem with a solo block and Pfitzer who notched a team-high three block assists.

"This was one of the hardest fought matches we have played all season," Head Coach Judy Green said. "We served well and played solid defense today. For the second straight match we have dug over 100 balls and something great is going to come from that type of effort soon. We also did a good job of extending rallies but could have won a few more of those in sets 1 and 3."

The Panthers return to action tomorrow in Bill Battle Coliseum for their final regular-season home match. BSC will take on Sewanee at 2 p.m. and host Senior Day activities honoring Alex Bothe and Sarassa Burrus prior to the match.