Athens, GA - The University of Georgia volleyball team opened its season with a 3-1 (25-23, 25-21, 19-25, 25-10) win over the Georgia Southern Eagles in front of packed house of 1,009 fans at the Ramsey Student Center on Friday evening on the first day of the Benson’s Hospitality Bulldog Invitational.
Brittany Northcutt picked up the season’s first double-double performance, tallying 14 kills and 10 digs. Tirah Le’au notched a .414 hitting percentage, picking up 12 kills in 29 attempts. Lauren Teknippadded 12 kills on the day.
Maggie Baumert paced the Bulldog offense with 24 assists, while Kaylee Kehoe added 17. Defensively, Allison Summers led the way with 21 digs, while Elena Perri picked a pair of solo blocks and a pair of block assists. Jasmine Eatmon totaled three block assists in the contest.
“I was very impressed at how this team battled and fought for points today,” said head coach Lizzy Stemke, who improved to 2-0 in season openers. “Georgia Southern is a well-coached team and we knew we had to bring our ‘A’ game tonight. Our players responded well and really showed that they are willing to fight for every point and not make mental errors. I am really proud of how our players responded when they got behind. I think this team will be one that doesn’t accept losing, which will help us as the season progresses.”
Enjoli Johnson, who tallied 12 kills, and Meredith Paskert, who added 10, led Georgia Southern offensively. Kate Van Dyke paced the offense with a match-high 42 assists. Three Eagles finished with double-digit digs, led by Moriah Bellissimo and Alexandra Beecher with 13 each. Meghan Morillo tallied 10 digs. As a team, Georgia Southern tallied six total bocks, led by Johnson and Paskert with three assisted blocks each.
“I thought we played really well today, especially in that last set,” Briana Bahr said following her nine-kill performance. “It was a little shaky in the third set, but we pulled through and showed that we have fight and are able to come through with a win. We just have a refuse to lose attitude this year.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to an 8-4 lead in set one before Georgia Southern answered by stringing together a run of its own to tie thematch at 11. Georgia maintained the edge throughout set one until a block by GSU’s Van Dyke and Paskert put the Eagles up one at 23-22. The Bulldogs answered by scoring the final three points of the match on a service error and kills by Northcutt and Teknipp.
Georgia grabbed a 4-1 lead in set two before Georgia Southern fought back to take a 14-10 lead. Behind the serve of Nicole Choi, the Bulldogs put together seven-straight points, including a pair of kills by Northcutt and a service ace, which allowed them to take a 23-19 lead. The Bulldogs never looked back, as a kill by Bahr sealed the second set 25-21 and put Georgia on top 2-0.
Georgia Southern took the third set 25-19 to make it a 2-1 match and force a fourth set. Trailing 3-0, Georgia fought back to tie the set at five before the Eagles scored seven of the next nine points to take a 12-7 lead. UGA cut the lead to three at 13-10 on a Northcutt kill, and again at 20-17 on a kill by Teknipp, but would not come any closer as Georgia Southern scored the final two points to take the win.
Georgia bounced back in the fourth and final set, racing out to a 14-4 lead. Georgia Southern could not find an answer to Georgia’s offensive outburst that saw it hit at a .480 clip, including nine combined kills from Northcutt, Le’au and Bahr. The Bulldogs went on to score six of the final seven points on the match, including the game-winning kill by Bahr.
The Bulldogs return to action tomorrow night at 7 p.m., when they take on the Troy Trojans at 7 p.m., in the Ramsey Student Center.