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WildCats Open 2018 Volleyball Season at Cougar Classic

Autumn Troxell attacks the ball to score a point for the WildCats
Autumn Troxell sends the ball over the net

DANVILLE, Va. - The Randolph College volleyball team opened its 2018 season on Friday afternoon at the 24th Annual Cougar Classic, hosted by Averett University. 

The WildCats dropped their first game to Southern Virginia University, 3-0 (20-25, 14-25, 18-25) before falling to the host Cougars, 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 18-25, 27-29). 

Game 1: Southern Virginia 3, Randolph 0

An early 4-1 rally in the opening set placed the WildCats ahead of the Knights. Randolph managed to hang on to a slight lead before the score was tied 8-all off a service error on the WildCats. With the ball back in its possession, Southern Virginia dished out a 7-3 run for 15-11 margin, forcing Randolph into a timeout. Coming out of the break, the WildCats were able to keep the Knights within striking distance as Rebecca Lesnak (Blountville, Tenn./Sullivan Central) and Taja Hunley (Dalzell, S.C./Thomas Sumter Academy) each landed a kill to bring the score to 24-20 but the Knights would close the set with 25-20 win.

The Knights set the tone in the second stanza of the match with a 7-2 lead that continued to increase as play went on. The WildCats were able to trim the deficit to 16-10, taking advantage of a Southern Virginia service error, but the Knights regrouped an launched a 4-0 onslaught to grab a 20-10 margin. The WildCats tried to gain ground, eventually cutting the score to 24-14 off a kill by Kennedy Moulton (Springfield, Va./West Springfield) but it would not be enough as Southern Virginia sealed the win on the following point for a 2-0 match lead headed into the final set.

Randolph held the lead early on in the third set, taking control with a 5-1 margin, but the Knights were right on its tail and were able to level the score to 5-all. However, the WildCats refused to be caught and managed to secure a 12-9 lead off of a 6-4 run, but the Knights were able to catch up once again and fired off five unanswered points to take the lead for the first time in the set. Despite Randolph's best efforts to decrease the point gap, the Knights ultimately sealed the match victory with a final third set score of 25-18.

Autumn Troxell (Front Royal, Va./Warren County) led the team with eight kills while Mackenzie Ambrose (Floyd, Va./Floyd County) chipped in six. Brooks Gillerlain (Suffolk, Va./Nansemond-Suffolk Academy) distributed 15 assists in the match, with Taylor Webb (Nassawadox, Va./Northampton) dishing out four assists of her own, while Sam Verhaagen (Virginia Beach, Va./Norfolk Christian) paced the defense with 15 digs. 

Game 2: Averett 3, Randolph 1

The opening set was tightly contested as each team both relinquished and gained the lead several times, but always managed to stay within striking distance. The WildCats and the Cougars would tie for the final time at 20-all before Averett fired off three straight points for a 23-20 lead. The WildCats called a timeout to regroup but were unable to catch up as the Cougars claimed a 25-20 win. 

The second set started off in a similar fashion to the previous one with the score leveling at 5-all, but the WildCats found their momentum and 6-2 burst found Randolph ahead, 11-7, and the Cougars calling for a timeout. The WildCats continued to maintain the lead but Averett was remained close behind, eventually trimming the deficit to 14-13, but a 7-4 run by the WildCats kept them in the lead to ultimately secure a 25-19 victory to tie the match at 1-1. 

An 11-4 margin in the third stanza set the pace for Averett as the Cougars continuously opened large point gaps to stay ahead of Randolph to secure a 25-18 win as the game headed into the fourth and final set. 

Harking back to the first set of the match, both teams would earn then lose the lead early on in the final set before the Cougars drilled a 4-0 run to pull ahead 14-10. Still, the WildCats would not be deterred and fought back to cut the deficit to 15-all, forcing Averett into a timeout. Coming out of the break the score continued to remain close, with the Cougars coming out ahead with the match point (24-23) but Averett stumbled on a service error, allowing Randolph to tie the score 24-all and give the WildCats a chance to extend the game into a deciding set.

After leveling the score two more times, Randolph held a 27-26 lead thanks to a block assist by Troxell and Makayla Murray (Virginia Beach, Va./Warwick), a service error committed by the WildCats proved to be their undoing as Averett delivered the final points needed to secure the set win and the match victory.

Troxell notched a double-double 15 kills and 14 digs while Ambrose notched 13 kills. Gillerlain also finished with a double-double, distrubuting 36 assists and 12 digs. Defensively, Verhaagen led with 26 digs while Murray and Troxell each finished with three block assists. 

The WildCats drop to 0-2 and will look to add to their win column tomorrow when they return for the second and final day of the Cougar Classic. Randolph will face Roanoke College at 12 p.m., followed by William Peace College at 3 p.m.