Lady Patriots win against Lander in season opener


Photo by: Kei'yona Jordon

After a year of waiting, the Lady Patriots return to the game, winning against Lander University.

The FMU Lady Patriots volleyball team defeated Lander University 3-0 during the season opener at 6 p.m. on March 4 at Smith University Center (UC).

FMU claimed the first three sets with a score of 25-22, 26-24 and 25-18 respectively, ending the game prematurely.

Since the season was delayed due to COVID-19, this was the first game the Lady Patriots played since Nov. 22, 2019, when they lost a close 2-3 game to Lander. Without a doubt, this history added an extra layer of excitement in the air that both sides delivered in their performance.

FMU maintained a strong offense throughout the game, with sophomore outside hitter Gracie Davis taking the court by storm with 12 kills, four digs and a block. Junior middle blocker Lily Walton and freshman outside hitter Lexi Albright both attained seven kills, with Albright picking up four aces along the way and Walton following with an ace.

Junior setter Finn Millians also worked a solid game in offense, completing 37 assists and securing two aces for the Lady Patriots. Senior outside hitter Kayla Arthur brought six additional kills to the team, with junior middle blocker Iyanla Thigpen sending a booming kill to Lander early in the first set, setting the stage for three more during the match.

FMU also held a steady defense, with junior libero Alexis Watts amassing 16 digs, followed by senior middle blocker Courtney Abdur-Rahim with nine and Albright with eight.

Watts said the rivalry with Lander encourages both teams to work their hardest, making more enjoyable and interesting games.

“We were very nervous and excited before the game, but it felt awesome,” Watts said. “I feel like we play our best games against each other, and they always play hard, so it just fires us up. It’s really nice to play against them, and we’re just really excited for this season and for what we have to come.”

Head Coach Lauren Baufield-Edwards said it was a long 468 days of anticipation to play games again, but the delay gave the team plenty of time to train for the coming season.

“I am so proud of every single one of them,” Baufield-Edwards said. “It’s awesome to finally have a full roster, and with 14 kids that are capable of going onto the court at any time, that was a good team win, not just for the players that were on the court.”

Alongside the teams cheered nearly 150 fans, adding to the overall energy of the night. Though seats were safely-spaced throughout the gym, the crowd’s voices rang together as one in support of their schools. Baufield-Edwards was thankful for the encouragement the team received from the stands and said it played a crucial role in keeping the team’s spirits high.

“It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but we got into a good rhythm, and they did a great job,” Baufield-Edwards said. “[FMU fans] carried us through tight moments, and it’s fun to see our girls tight on a game, and we’ve got people standing up and cheering us on. That just means that our girls are doing a really good job of putting on a good show, so the fans are engaged and all about it.”

The Lady Patriots will play their next home game against Young Harris College starting at 6 p.m. on March 25 at the UC.