BOILING SPRINGS — Hannah Driscoll (Lake Mary, Fla.) tallied eight kills on 10 swings, and Gardner-Webb held Limestone to 27 kills as the Runnin' Bulldogs pulled out a straight-set sweep on Thursday evening in their home opener.
"This was a great opening night victory with an awesome crowd!" said head coach Leo Sayles. "It is such a fun environment to compete in. Limestone really bounced back after set one and put a lot of pressure on us, but our girls are showing that they have the grit and nerve to find a way to pull out a win. Hannah Driscoll was almost perfect in the middle tonight, and Molly Johnston gave us a really solid performance in her first start. We will continue to work out the kinks in our offense and seek to improve next week on the road at South Carolina State."
Gardner-Webb (3-2) won the match by scores of 25-13, 26-24 and 25-20, attacking at a .183 clip while holding Limestone (0-1) to a hitting percentage of .028. The Runnin' Bulldogs posted totals of 48 digs, 37 kills and nine blocks, compared to 48 digs, 27 kills and seven stuffs for the Saints.
Driscoll and Taylor Lillard (Victorville, Calif.) led the way for Gardner-Webb with eight kills each, while Keira Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Molly Johnston (Lubbock, Texas) added seven and six smashes, respectively. Driscoll tallied a match-high five blocks, as Emma Milstead (Knoxville, Tenn.) recorded 16 digs and two service aces. Amanda Sahm (Marion, Iowa) and Tinsley Fain (Boiling Springs, S.C.) dished out 17 and 16 assists, respectively, while Kacy O'Connor (Southport, N.C.) chipped in a match-high three service aces.
Rycki Ebert paced the Saints with nine kills, while Miranda Geist nearly posted a double-double with 20 assists and nine digs. Taylor Berg tallied 15 digs to lead the team as Jenna Mummert recorded four blocks.
The Runnin' Bulldogs made quick work of set one, stringing together a 15-6 run to break an early tie and claim a comfortable 18-9 lead in the frame following back-to-back Milstead aces. Gardner-Webb would close out the set from there, finishing on a 7-3 spurt to take a 1-0 advantage in the match with a 25-13 first-set win.
The second set proved to be the most tightly contested of the night, with neither team holding more than a two-point advantage throughout the frame. Limestone would seize control midway through the set on a solo stuff by Victoria Norwood to claim a narrow 13-11 lead.
The Saints kept pushing, answering every GWU spurt with one of their own, which led to Limestone holding an 18-16 advantage late in the frame following an Ebert smash. Gardner-Webb found its footing in the set moments later with four straight points to reclaim the lead, and open a 20-18 margin on back-to-back kills from Driscoll. The teams would trade spurts for the remainder of the frame, with Limestone pushing Gardner-Webb to set point at 24-23 before the Runnin' Bulldogs fired off three straight points to cap the set, and take a 2-0 lead in the match on an ace from Kaelyn Dyson (Holly Springs, N.C.).
Gardner-Webb carried the momentum into the third, opening the frame with a 14-9 run that was capped by an emphatic smash from Driscoll - her seventh of the night. Limestone would answer with a 9-5 spurt, closing the gap to 19-18 and forcing the Runnin' Bulldogs to take a timeout following a tandem block from Mummert and Ebert. The timeout proved to be a difference maker for the Runnin' Bulldogs, propelling Gardner-Webb on a 6-2 spurt to quell the rally and close out the match seconds after a smash from Johnston.
The Runnin' Bulldogs return to the court on Wednesday, September 7 when they travel to Orangeburg, South Carolina to take on South Carolina State at 7:00 pm.