The afternoon match during the opening day of the FMU Invitational Tournament on Friday, Sept. 2 saw the Francis Marion University volleyball team lose to the Newberry College Wolves in four sets, 18-25, 25-14, 25-14, 25-19.
Sixth-year Women’s Volleyball Coach Paul MacDonald knew about the threat of the Newberry attack before the match.
“Newberry’s a real good team,” MacDonald said. “Our defense will really have to step up, and we have to put pressure on them with our serve. We have to practice serving aggressively, yet intelligently.”
MacDonald welcomes back eight letterwinners, including six players who started on a regular basis, from last season’s 15-16 squad (4-10 in the Peach Belt Conference). However, the Patriots lost two All-Conference performers in libero Kelsie Deaton, who finished fourth on the Peach Belt Conference’s career digs list with 1886, as well as middle blocker Mallory Eggort, who amassed well over 700 kills and 400 total blocks during her career.
Leading the returnees for FMU are sophomore setter Nicole Bennett, senior middleblocker Danielle Parker and senior outside hitters Ashlee Crook and Amanda Mitchell. As a freshman, Bennett led the Peach Belt Conference with 0.52 in service aces per game and ranked second with 9.69 assists per game. Senior defensive specialist Hallie Legg also returns.
The Patriots showed intensity in the first set but encountered difficulty in the second set against a relentless Newberry team, led by sophomore Samantha Parrish, a preseason All-Conference selection in the South Atlantic Conference.
Newberry’s execution was so efficient that the Patriots were forced to call a timeout after the Eagles took a 12-4 advantage in the second game.
While echoing chants of “together,” Newberry dis-played teamwork and thwarted the comeback attempt of the Patriots to finish FMU off in the second game, 25-14.
The Wolves got off to another quick start in the third game, taking a speedy 11-4 advantage. From there, Newberry’s play remained consistent and balanced. They went on to finish off FMU and win their second game of the day.
Parrish was at the top of the board for Newberry with 16 kills and 15 digs. Senior Lindsey Hollingsworth had 27 digs.
For the Patriots, Bennett led the way with 28 assists, while Crook had a team-leading 10 kills.
As a team, Newberry accrued more kills, aces and blocks than FMU.
The Wolves had much support at the match from family, friends and fans, who came from all over the nation.
Domingo Mayor was one of the many Newberry enthusiasts in attendance; Mayor traveled from Houston in order to see his daughter Chelsea play in her first games as a member of the Newberry team.
“We are very excited about Chelsea and the team,” Mayor said. “She seems to be doing well.”
The victory improved Newberry’s record to 2-0 and dropped FMU’s record to 1-1. The Patriots will play in another tournament on Sept. 9 and 10 in Greeneville, Tenn. before starting conference play against Lander on Friday, Sept. 23.