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Volleyball Falls in Three Sets to Charlotte in C-USA Home Opener

Keith Lucas

NORFOLK, Va. – The Old Dominion volleyball team dropped a three-set decision to Charlotte on Friday night inside the ODU Volleyball Center in the Conference USA home opener for the Monarchs.
"It definitely got better for us the longer we played, and that points to the experience that we still need to gain," head coach Fred Chao said. "We fell behind with our serve and pass in the first two sets, but once that solidified and we started playing volleyball we had the chance to start rallies. We have to get back to the basics of what we do well: serve and pass, control the ball when we can and play just a little bit smarter offense." 
Kira Smith led the way in attack for ODU (9-8, 1-2 C-USA) with 12 kills on 32 total swings. The freshman from San Diego also had five digs and one service ace. Madelyn Grunza and Alessia Sgherza tallied seven kills apiece.
The Monarchs posted a -.030 hitting percentage in the first set, dropping it 25-13. ODU won the first point of the night off a hitting error by the 49ers (10-7, 3-2), but Charlotte promptly rattled off a 4-0 run to take control of the set. Old Dominion pulled to within three points on three occasions before the 49ers put the set to rest with a 6-0 run to go ahead 17-8.
Old Dominion hit .282 as a team in the second set, but Charlotte notched 19 kills with three errors on 34 total attempts (.471) to win it 25-20 and go ahead 2-0 in the match. Emani Foster had eight of her match-high 19 kills in the second. ODU led 5-2 behind two kills from Grunza and one from Smith and held that lead until a 3-0 run by the visitors made the score 9-8 in their favor. The sides exchanged the next five points before another 3-0 surge by the 49ers made the score 14-11. The Monarchs continued scrapping but were unable to piece together a run. Down 18-13, ODU traded points with Charlotte for the remainder of the second until a Foster kill ended the set.
ODU led 20-19 late in the third set but could not hold on, losing it 25-23. Smith tallied six kills in the final set. The third set featured 12 ties and three lead changes. Back-to-back kills from Smith and Ashley Peroe tied the set at 9-9 before a 6-0 Charlotte run made it a 15-9 score. A service error by the 49ers broke their momentum and began a 6-0 run by the hosts to tie the set once again at 15-15. A Grunza kill broke an 18-all tie before Foster notched consecutive kills to first knot the score at 20-20 and then to put the 49ers ahead for good.
Teresa Atilano had 30 assists, two kills, seven digs and a team-high three blocks. Anna Burkhardt chipped in 10 digs and a pair of aces, and Jordan Daniel led the team with 14 digs.
Charlotte's Annika Wetterstrom set the game-high with 35 assists. Sydney Rowan had 16 digs and was one kill shy of a double-double. Camryn Upshaw was credited with six blocks.
The two sides square off once more on Saturday at 6 p.m.