Bearcats surge in fifth set to top Francis Marion in PBC opener


Bearcats surge in fifth set to top Francis Marion in PBC opener: The Lander volleyball team rallied from a 6-2 deficit in the fifth set with 13 unanswered points to knock off Francis Marion, 3-2, in the Peach Belt Conference opener for both teams on Friday night in Finis Horne Arena. The Bearcats won the match 19-25, 25-23, 25-16, 24-26, 15-6.

Lander (12-2, 1-0 PBC) earned its second straight five-set win over the Patriots (8-6, 0-1 PBC) after defeating FMU in Florence last season. The win marked the Bearcats’ 11th win in their last 12 matches.

“[That run] was absolutely amazing to be a part of,” said head coach Ashley White. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a team do that. To go on a 13-0 run out of a timeout, that shows you what we’re capable of. I loved our crowd support tonight. Our fans were chanting and cheering, which was absolutely one of the main reasons we got back into that fifth set. It was just a great night.”

Lander held a 16-13 lead in the first set, but Francis Marion stormed back with a 10-1 run to take control and claim the first point of the night. The Bearcats broke open a back-and forth second set with an 8-2 run late to go up 24-19, but the Patriots pulled back within a point before a kill from Kaitlyn Krafka gave Lander the equalizing point.

The third set featured another late Bearcat surge as Lander erased a 13-12 deficit, thanks in part to three FMU errors, to lead 17-13. This time, the Patriots would not be able to make Lander sweat the final points as the Bearcats ended the set four straight point, the clincher coming on a Reilly Kuenstler kill.

Lander earned its first match point of the night in the fourth set, leading 24-23, but a pair of Bearcat errors gave Francis Marion a 25-24 lead and an FMU kill forced a fifth and deciding set.

Francis Marion stormed out to a 6-2 lead in the fifth set, but Lander snatched the momentum back following a timeout. After a pair of Patriot errors, Kyra Ross and Hannah Hritz registered a pair of kills to tie the score at 6-6. Ross gave Lander its first lead of the set with a kill and another error pushed Lander’s advantage to 8-6. From that point, Hritz took over, blasting four kills over the final six points to ice the match.

Krafka recorded her seventh consecutive double-double with 21 kills and 26 digs, both career highs. Madilyn Reed’s 51 assists on the night set a career high, while Hritz tallied a season-high 18 kills and added 5.0 blocks. Hannah McManus finished with a season-high 37 digs.

Lander returns to action tomorrow to host Clark Atlanta at 1:00 p.m.

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