BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb battled first-place Radford tooth-and-nail in the first two sets, before the Highlanders asserted control in the third to win 3-0 Friday night in Paul Porter Arena.
The Highlanders (17-4, 8-1 Big South) posted matching 25-19 wins in the first two sets, before jumping out to a big lead and winning 25-12 in the third.
Gardner-Webb (11-13, 1-8 Big South) honored seniors Jene' Lee, Taylor Lillard and Kasey O'Connor prior to Friday's match.
The Runnin' Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening set and led 8-5 before the Highlanders started to rally. Gardner-Webb held its last lead at 11-10, before Radford ran off four straight points and seven of the next 10 to build a slight cushion.
GWU would not go away, pulling within 18-17 on a Hannah Lancaster swing – and again at 20-19 on a Radford error. The Highlanders responded with another 5-0 run, however, to win the set.
Gardner-Webb again opened up an early lead in set two, and kept the score tight. Radford used a 4-0 run midway through to take a 17-12 lead and kept the cushion at three points or more the rest of the way.
Radford heated up in the third set, as Maddie Palmer served seven consecutive points to give the Highlanders a commanding 10-1 lead. Gardner-Webb did not surrender, battling back to within six points several times – but the Highlanders kept the pressure on and pulled away.
The Highlanders hit a strong .309 for the match, with Lidija Mamic (14 kills, .765%) and Palmer (17 kills, .500%) leading the way. Haley Kleespies set the table with 33 assists. Radford had 12 total blocks in the match.
Gardner-Webb hit .231 in the second set, but had nine errors on 26 swings in the third to finish at .099 for the match. Lillard led the way with eight kills and Emma Milstead had 10 digs. Kaelyn Dyson was active at the net with five total blocks. Hannah Driscoll had three total blocks, with Lancaster and Lillard each collecting two.
Gardner-Webb is back in action Saturday afternoon, hosting Liberty at 4:00 pm in Paul Porter Arena.