BOILING SPRINGS — Senior Taylor Lillard (Victorville, Calif.) paced three Runnin' Bulldogs with double digits in kills, as Charleston Southern held on for a scrappy 3-1 win over Gardner-Webb in Big South Conference play on Saturday afternoon.
"CSU played a quality defensive game, pressured us into poor passing and poor decisions, and their scrappy play frustrated us," said head coach Leo Sayles. "I was disappointed in the way we handled this match as a team. Poor execution offensively and poor execution of our defensive game plan cost us critical points in key stretches."
Charleston Southern (7-11, 2-0 Big South) won the match by scores of 25-22, 17-25, 25-20 and 26-24, as the Buccaneers tallied 78 digs, 47 kills and 13 blocks. Gardner-Webb (9-6, 1-1 Big South) posted 61 kills, 84 digs and 11 blocks in the match.
Lillard led the way with 14 kills and 11 digs to account for her fifth double-double of the season, while Keira Moore (Spartanburg, S.C.) and Hannah Driscoll (Lake Mary, Fla.) added 13 and 12 kills, respectively. Emma Mlistead (Knoxville, Tenn.) paced all defensive players with 25 digs, as Tinsley Fain (Boiling Springs, S.C.) dished out 30 assists to go along with nine digs. Kaelyn Dyson (Holly Springs, N.C.) and Driscoll tallied six and five blocks, respectively.
"What was more disappointing is to take this loss amidst some great individual efforts by Taylor Lillard, Hannah Driscoll, and Keira Moore," added Sayles. "Tinsley Fain did a great job distributing, but we were constantly trying to play from behind. At least we are at .500 with our road win at Winthrop. We'll refocus and see if we can put together a complete game against NC Central on Tuesday."
Addison Kaderli paced the Buccaneers with 13 kills and 10 digs, while Brooke Monssen and Connor Malone each added nine smashes. Rachel Smith recorded a double-double with 34 assists and 19 digs, as Madison Martin posted 21 digs and three service aces.
Charleston Southern took the first set, 25-22, after opening the frame with a 5-1 spurt before snatching a 14-11 advantage following an ace by Martin. The Runnin' Bulldogs would knot the score at 16-16 moments later, before a 5-2 run by the Bucs handed Charleston Southern a 21-18 advantage. After Gardner-Webb countered with a 4-1 spurt to even the tally at 22-22, the Bucs answered with three straight points to close out the set and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The Runnin' Bulldogs battled back with a 10-4 run to open the second set, and pushed the lead to 15-6 moments later with smash from Johnston. After Gardner-Webb stretched the margin to 17-7 following a Driscoll smash, Charleston Southern answered with a 6-2 spurt to close the gap to 19-13. The Runnin' Bulldogs countered with six of the next 11 points to claim the set, 25-17, to even the match at 1-1 on a smash from Driscoll.
Charleston Southern reclaimed the lead with a 25-20 come-from-behind win in the third, after Gardner-Webb opened the set with a 5-1 spurt. The Bucs would counter with an 11-2 surge to take a 12-7 lead, before a Lillard smash and a Bucs miscue cut the margin to 13-12. After the Runnin' Bulldogs evened the tally at 14-14, Charleston Southern countered with a 9-4 run to open a 23-18 lead on a kill by Kylie Klein. The Bucs then took the set, 25-20, with a tandem block by Smith and Caitlyn Michalski following back-to-back points for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb bounced back with a 13-9 run to open the fourth set, capping the stretch with a smash from Driscoll before a 7-4 spurt by the Bucs cut the lead to 17-16. With Gardner-Webb holding a 21-17 advantage late in the frame, Charleston Southern countered with a 6-2 spurt to knot the score at 23-23 on a smash from Kaderli.
The Runnin' Bulldogs were pushed to match point on the ensuing rally, after a ball handling error gave the Bucs a 24-23 lead. Lillard answered with a smash to even the tally at 24-24, before back-to-back kills by Malone and Klein handed Charleston Southern the set and the match.
Gardner-Webb returns to the court on Tuesday when the Runnin' Bulldogs travel to Durham, N.C. to take on North Carolina Central in non-conference play at 6:00 pm.