HARROGATE, Tenn. — The Lady Railsplitters (3-2, 1-0 SAC) used a balanced and efficient offensive attack to take a 3-1 victory (25-17, 23-25, 25-16, 25-15) over the Mars Hill Lions (2-3, 0-1 SAC) in their South Atlantic Conference volleyball opener on Tuesday. Lincoln Memorial University improved to 18-7 all-time against the Lions and extended their winning streak to three with the four-set win.
Senior Kaitlin Walton led Lincoln Memorial’s offensive effort with 17 kills, accumulated on a monster .441 hitting percentage. With 17 kills on the night, Walton surpassed 800 kills for her career. She heads into the weekend sitting 184 kills shy of becoming the 10th player in school history to join the 1,000-kill club. Kendra Gephart added to the Lady Railsplitters’ offensive showing with 13 kills on the wings of a .357 clip on the evening. Gephart also churned out 10 digs to tally a double-double effort. Brooke Fleeman came in with nine kills, while Jazzy Oates added eight.
Junior Allison Beavers fell just shy of recording a triple-double for the second consecutive match. Instead, she settled for a double-double with 26 assists, 10 digs and six kills. Freshman Abby Cash added 24 assists and 10 digs to give the Lady Railsplitters three double-double performances on the night. Casey Mense, once again led the Lady Railsplitters with a match-high 25 digs. She has paced LMU in that category in all five matches this season.
The Mars Hill Lions’ offense was carried by the dual effort of Marissa Wixson and Toni Cole, as those two attackers combined for 31 of Mars Hill’s 46 kills. Cole paced the Lions with 16, while Wixson finished with 15. Courtney Worthington matched Allison Beavers’ match-high figure with 26 assists. Maggie Murphy led the way defensively for the Lions with 18 digs, and Victoria Kaiser aided that side of the ball with 17.
An attack error by Brooke Fleeman early in the first set gave the Lions a 5-4 advantage before the Lady Railsplitters rallied off five-straight points, highlighted by kills from Jazzy Oates, Kendra Gephart and Allison Beavers, to take command of the set at 9-5. A kill by Courtney Worthington closed LMU’s lead to 11-9, but the Lady Railsplitters rolled off four-straight points, capped with an ace by Allison Beavers, to take a 15-9 lead. The Lions hung tight near the end of the first stanza, using a pair of attack errors to cut the gap to 19-15, however, LMU scored four consecutive points to build a 23-15 head of steam. Kills by Oates and Walton brought the first set to a 25-17 close in favor of the Lady Railsplitters.
The Lions came out hot in the second frame, using four kills in the opening passage of play to build an 8-4 advantage. From that point, the Lady Railsplitters swung the momentum with a 9-4 rally, highlighted by a pair of kills from Kendra Gephart, to knot the game at 13 apiece. After trading points during the next several rallies, LMU used a 5-0 run to assume command of the board at 22-18. The remainder of the set, however, went to the Lions, as they used three kills, capped with a putaway by Maggie Murphy to come from behind and take a 25-23 victory.
Coming out of the break, Mars Hill used a kill by MaryKate Griffin to assume a 10-7 lead. As quickly as that lead was built, the Lady Railsplitters cruised out to a lead of their own, as they took 11 of the next 13 points, to stride out to an 18-12 lead. Toni Cole closed the gap to 19-14 with a kill late in the frame but LMU tallied kills on four of the next five rallies to build a 23-15 lead. A kill by Gephart and an attack error by the Lions ended the set, 25-16.
The Lions, once again, established a lead early in the fourth set, using three straight kills to garner a 7-4 advantage. Once again the Lady Railsplitters had an answer, taking 12 of the next 16 points. A kill from Jazzy Oates put LMU up 16-11. Later, the Lady Railsplitters slammed home five kills in a 7-2 run to take a commanding 23-14 lead. A kill by Gephart and a Casey Mense ace concluded the match with a 25-15 victory for the Lady Railsplitters in the fourth set.
Lincoln Memorial will return to action over the weekend, heading to Aiken, S.C., for a four-game set at the USC-Aiken Classic. The Lady Railsplitters open play on Friday against Converse (1 p.m.) and Lander (5 p.m.).