ELON, N.C. — Sophomore setter Amanda Sahm (Marion, Iowa) equaled a Gardner-Webb individual single-match record with seven service aces as the Runnin' Bulldogs dropped in 12 service aces en route to a sweep of Norfolk State on Saturday at the Elon Phoenix Classic. With the sweep, the Runnin' Bulldogs ran their win streak to five matches and have now won their last 13 sets.
"Our girls showed their fighting spirit today," praised head coach Leo Sayles. "They showed tremendous composure in set two as they chipped away at Norfolk State's early lead. Our aggressive serving, led by Amanda Sahm's 7 aces, continued to keep opponents out is system, and Emma Milstead led our defensive effort."
Gardner-Webb (6-2) won the match by scores of 25-18, 27-25 and 25-8, while compiling 37 digs, 32 kills and 12 service aces. The Runnin' Bulldogs held Norfolk State (1-10) to 25 kills, 35 digs and three blocks in the match.
Nicole Celarek (Bensenville, Ill.) led the way for Gardner-Webb with seven kills, as Taylor Lillard (Victorville, Calif.) and Tyra Long (Tampa, Fla.) each added six kills. Emma Milstead (Knoxville, Tenn.) posted 19 digs while Sahm and Kacy O'Connor (Southport, N.C.) tallied seven and three aces, respectively.
Jessica Johnson paced Norfolk State with 10 kills, while Dominique Parker added seven smashes. Jill Aquino dished out 19 assists as Melvina Brown tallied 18 digs.
The first set proved to be a back-and-forth battle through much of the early going, with Norfolk State taking a 12-9 lead before Gardner-Webb rallied to claim a 21-14 advantage on back-to-back aces from Sahm that capped a 12-2 surge. The Runnin' Bulldogs held on from there, finishing the frame with a Long smash to open the match with a 25-18 first-set win.
The Runnnin' Bulldogs were forced to fight from behind once again in the second, as the Spartans jumped out to an early 12-7 advantage before pushing the margin to 17-10 on a kill from Parker. Gardner-Webb would bounce back with a 10-3 run to even the tally at 20-20 following a Sahm ace and a Celarek smash.
Three of the next four points would fall for the Runnin' Bulldogs as well to give Gardner-Webb a 23-21 lead, before a 4-1 spurt for Norfolk State pushed GWU to set point at 25-24. The momentum swung back to the Runnin' Bulldogs with the next point, as Gardner-Webb tallied the next three to complete the rally and take the second set, 27-25.
The Runnin' Bulldogs put the peddle fully to the floor in the third, scoring 15 of the first 18 points to take a commanding 15-3 lead in the set with an emphatic kill from Celarek. A 10-5 run from the Runnin' Bulldogs would finish the frame as Gardner-Webb capped its fifth straight win with a dump from Tinsley Fain (Boiling Springs, S.C.).
Gardner-Webb will conclude the weekend at the Elon Phoenix Classic with a 7:00 pm matchup against host Elon in Alumni Gym this evening.