CHARLESTON, S.C. – Senior Taylor Lillard posted a double-double to lead Gardner-Webb to five-set victory over Charleston Southern in Big South Conference action Friday evening.
"We had an old-fashioned dog-fight tonight" stated head coach Leo Sayles after the match. "I'm very proud of the fighting spirit of the girls. Charleston Southern is a sound team and forces you to make errors. However, our girls showed determination and resolve, and found a way to win. Taylor displayed great leadership and was effective scoring. I was also glad to see Hannah Driscoll return to her early season form."
Gardner-Webb (13-15, 3-10 Big South) won the match by scores of 25-23, 15-25, 20-25, 25-21, and 15-13. GWU had 53 kills on the evening while holding Charleston Southern (12-17, 7-6 Big South) to 47 kills.
Lillard led Gardner-Webb with 17 kills, while Emma Milstead led the squad with 25 digs, followed closely by Lillard with 23. Hannah Driscoll led the team with five blocks, while Tinsley Fain tallied 22 assists.
CSU was led in kills by Kylie Klein with 12, digs by Madison Martin with 35, blocks by Connor Malone with 10, and assists by Naiomi Rivera with 40.
The Runnin' Bulldogs opened the first set with a 6-3 run, capped by a kill by Lillard. GWU would build its largest lead of the frame at 13-8 after a smash from Hannah Lancaster, yet Charleston Southern would respond to eventually take a 22-21 lead. Gardner-Webb would regroup and finish the set with a 4-1 spurt, highlighted by a block and kill from Keira Moore, to claim the opening set by a score of 25-23.
Action was back and forth at the beginning of the second set, with the Runnin' Bulldogs holding a 6-5 lead after a Lancaster kill, until the Buccaneers scored seven unanswered points to claim a 12-6 advantage. CSU would control the remainder of the set, winning by a 25-15 score.
Charleston Southern opened the third set with a 6-1 run, but Gardner-Webb would respond with a 10-4 run to take an 11-10 lead. CSU would once again build a slight lead at 15-12, yet GWU would answer with a 5-2 spurt, highlighted by a pair of blocks by Molly Johnston, to tie the set at 17-17. Charleston Southern would close the set with an 8-3 run to take the third set, 25-20, and claim a 2-1 set advantage.
The fourth set would remain close throughout, as there were 10 ties and seven lead changes. GWU would build an 11-8 lead following a service ace from Amanda Sahm, yet Charleston Southern would string together four straight points to claim a 12-11 advantage. Gardner-Webb would once again build a slim margin at 16-14 following a kill by Nicole Celarek, and CSU would again score four straight points to take an 18-16 lead. The Runnin' Bulldogs would respond with its own run of five unanswered points, capped by a Kaelyn Dyson kill, to take a 21-18 advantage, and would hold on to take the set, 25-21.
Play was tightly contested in the decisive fifth set as neither team would lead by more than two points throughout. Charleston Southern led as late as 12-11, but the Runnin' Bulldogs would respond with a quick 3-0 spurt to claim a 14-12 lead after a Celarek kill. CSU would score the next point to pull within one, yet GWU would score the next point on a block from Driscoll to take the set, 15-13, and the overall match win.
Gardner-Webb returns to Boiling Springs for its final home contest of the 2016 season on Tuesday, hosting Winthrop at 7:00 pm. Live video of the match can be found on the Big South Network (www.bigsouthsports.com).