Boiling Springs, N.C. - Gardner-Webb sophomore setter Heather Feldman posted a double-double of 50 set assists and 14 digs to lead the Runnin' Bulldogs to a 3-1 home win over the UNC Asheville Bulldogs in the two teams' Big South Conference opener Friday night in Paul Porter Arena.
The Runnin' Bulldogs defeated the Asheville Bulldogs 25-22, 25-20, 23-25 and 25-14 to record its first conference win of the season and its second straight victory over Asheville.
"The girls executed well and we had a great focus tonight that we haven't seen in the last couple of games," Coach Leo Sayles stated. "The girls are starting to buy in to what we are trying to do. Our offense was clicking and we saw that this week if our team was in system we hit really well. We put a little extra pressure on our passers and they really stepped up today."
GWU improves to 5-12 on the year and 1-0 in conference play, while Asheville falls to 4-13 overall and will begin conference play at 0-1.
Gardner-Webb had two players in double digits in kills with Emily Holte's match-high 14 kills, which ties a career-high, and Erin Anderson's 10 kills, while libero Anna Pashkova and senior Dominique Bray joined Feldman with double digit digs with 13 and 11, respectively. Feldman also had a season-high five kills, while freshman Tyra Montour and junior Amanda Murphy each posted an attack percentage over .600 on the night.
Asheville was led by Anna Moore's team-high 11 kills, while Holly Shelton posted a team-high 16 digs to go along with seven kills over the four set match.
Neither team could pull away to start the opening set, as a Meredith Foster kill tied the first set up at 5-5.
A kill by Feldman helped the Runnin' Bulldogs run out to a three point lead at 8-5, however, the Asheville Bulldogs fought its way back into the set, knotting the frame up once more at 10-10 on a GWU attack error.
Senior Carolina Solano would post a kill to put GWU back in front at 11-10, but it also started a 7-3 by the home standing 'Dogs, who ran out to a 17-13 lead on a kill by junior middle blocker Tyler Cockrell.
The set of runs would continue, as this time Asheville put together a 6-1 run to take a one point lead at 19-18 on a kill by Moore.
Refusing to quit, GWU answered back with a kill from Montour to jump-start a 5-0 run capped off bay a Montour service ace to pull out to a 23-19 lead.
After back-to-back GWU errors kept Asheville in the set at 23-22, Gardner-Webb got a huge kill from Murphy and watch an Asheville attack sail long to take the 25-22 first set win.
The home team pounced on the visiting Bulldogs in the second set, running out to an 8-2 lead on another Feldman kill to force Asheville to use an early timeout.
Out of the timeout, GWU pushed its lead to seven at 10-3 and then used back-to-back kills from Cockrell and Solano, as well as two kills from Murphy, to take a double digit lead at 16-6.
However, the Runnin' Bulldogs allowed the Asheville Bulldogs to battle back into the set with a 12-5 run to put the score at 21-18 in favor of the home team and force Gardner-Webb to use a timeout.
The Runnin' Bulldogs settled down after the one-minute break, as Solano and Holte combined for three kills and a service ace to guide the home team to a 25-20 second set victory and a 2-0 match lead.
GWU got off to a slow start in the third set, as Asheville took a 5-1 lead on another Moore kill to start the game, then continued to add to its lead, with the help of two more GWU attack errors, to push it out to six at 8-2.
As the Runnin' Bulldogs tried to battle its way back into the set, the visiting Asheville Bulldogs always had an answer, as GWU cut the lead to four at 14-10 on a Holte kill.
After two consecutive UNC Asheville attack errors put the score at 14-12 in favor of the visitors, Gardner-Webb outscored Asheville 6-4 to tie the set up at 18-18.
Asheville would retake the lead at 21-19, only to have GWU tie the set up once more at 22-22 on back-to-back kills from Murphy and Anderson and put the set even with three points to go.
Two GWU attack errors and a Christine Lakatos kill would be all that the Asheville Bulldogs would need to escape the third set with a 25-23 set win and force a fourth game.
The fourth game belong to GWU, as after an Asheville service error tied the set up at 7-7, Feldman recorded her lone service ace of the match to kick-off an 11-5 run by the Runnin' Bulldogs who took a 19-12 lead and forced a UNC Asheville timeout.
The timeout did not slow down the Runnin' Bulldog attack, as GWU finished the set out on a 5-2 run, highlighted by kills from Feldman and senior Molly Rhyne, to pick up the huge 25-14 set win and the 3-1 match victory.
The win pushes GWU's record to 2-3 in Big South Conference openers since joining the League in 2008.
Friday night's match was the first of a four-match home stand for the Runnin' Bulldogs, who will return to Paul Porter Arena to host USC Upstate on Tuesday, September 25th, at 7 p.m.