CHARLESTON, S.C. - Darcy Dorton led visiting College of Charleston with 21 kills as the Cougars held off Charleston Southern on Tuesday evening inside the Buccaneer Field House, despite standout performances by Kayla Klinger and Siraya Windsor as the Buccaneer fell in four sets to their local rival, 25-20, 25-23, 16-25, 25-19.
In arguably one of their best matches of the season, Charleston Southern (5-10) hit .274 from the floor and a season-best .519 in the third set in pushing the Cougars (7-5) to the limit on the evening. Klinger led the Buccaneers with 15 kills and added 12 digs in the match, while Windsor added 11 kills of her own and 13 digs as five players on the CSU roster hit .300 or above in the match in the loss.
"Obviously, we'd like to win, but there was a lot of growth tonight. Our team displayed a lot of trust and maturity and we didn't really have a set where we didn't execute offensively," commented head coach Al Givens following the match. "I'm most proud of the job Kirsten (Struksnes) did on the floor. That's what I've been looking for from her to take ownership of the team. Our hitters provided great balance and in return we had one of the highest percentages we've ever hit against a good team."
The teams battled back and forth through the first set of the match, with CSU tying it up at 12 apiece following a kill by Kirsten Struksnes, but CofC responded with eight of the next 10 points to take an 20-14 lead on a kill by Kerstin Koehler to take their largest lead of the set. Charleston Southern battled back, cutting into the Cougars' lead as Meredith Parrott, Sydney Tracy and Klinger brought the score back to within four at 23-19. However, the Lady Bucs rally fell short as a CSU service error gave CofC the first set 25-20 victory.
College of Charleston took a 13-11 lead in the second set following a kill by Melissa Morello, before Charleston Southern broke the contest open with a 7-0 run on Ashley Higgenbothem's serve as the sophomore libero placed in a service ace and Parrott added a kill to put the Buccaneers up 18-13. College of Charleston steadily fought back, taking advantage of a trio of CSU attack errors before tying the frame up at 22 apiece on a Dorton kill. After Klinger and Lizzie Theesfeld traded kills, CofC pulled away for the set victory on back-to-back Theesfeld kills to go up 2-0 with the 25-23 set win.
Charleston Southern pulled away again in the third set, building an 18-12 lead on a kill by Windsor as Parrott and Klinger added three kills apiece in the CSU lead. College of Charleston cut the lead down to four at 19-15 on a Morello kill, but the Lady Bucs pulled away and closed out the set by scoring six of the final seven points of the frame with Tracy providing the final blow with a service ace to send the match to a fourth set.
Neither team was able to build more than a three point advantage in the fourth set as Charleston Southern cut the CofC lead to 17-16 following a Cougars' service error. College of Charleston responded with a block by Koehler and Neideffer in running off three consecutive points to build their largest lead of the set to that point at 20-16. Katrina Houston sparked a Charleston Southern rally with a kill, and Windsor followed with her final kill of the evening, but Catey Warren and Taeler Davis blocked a CSU attack and Morello recorded two of the final three points on kills in guiding College of Charleston past the Lady Bucs on Tuesday night with the clinching 25-19 victory.
Struksnes set up the CSU attack on the evening, recording a season-high 43 set assists, while Higgenbothem led the backline efforts with 19 of the team's 53 digs on the evening. Wynter Davis and Parrott added eight kills apiece for CSU, while Davis and Struksnes added five blocks apiece at the net in the loss.
"It would be nice to get on the board quick and early in the conference season, but it's going to be a war here on Friday as Presbyterian comes to town," said Givens on opening conference play this weekend. "We're satisfied with our effort for tonight, not with the outcome and it shows we still have room for improvement. The key for us is to bring the same effort in every match."
Charleston Southern remains at home as the Lady Bucs prepare to open Big South Conference play on Friday, September 21st, as CSU welcomes Presbyterian College to the Buccaneer Field House. First serve between the Buccaneers and the Blue Hose is the conference opener is set for 7 p.m.