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By the end of the second set, the Barton College women’s volleyball team climbed into the same competitive plateau as its guests from Limestone during Friday’s NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas match at Hunt High.
But by then, the deficit was too much for the reeling Lady Bulldogs to overcome.
Playing their final match in Wilson as a member of the league, the Lady Saints held Barton, largely listless through two sets, to an .010 showing on the attack and limited junior sensation Kaytlin Elkins to just nine kills on 28 swings in a brisk 25-8, 25-19, 25-16 showing that concluded in a scant 1 hour, 5 minutes.
As Wilson Gym undergoes its final touches on a comprehensive renovation, the Lady Bulldogs fell to 4-5 overall and 1-2 in conference play. Limestone, which will begin play in the South Atlantic Conference beginning next season, climbed to 7-5 and remained unbeaten through four CC matches.
The Lady Bulldogs sputtered to a 17-5 deficit in the opening set and promptly created an 8-0 hole to open the second set. In the first two sets, Barton was held to a negative hitting percentage before graduating to a scant .086 showing in the third and final set.
The order of play didn’t sit well with veteran head coach Jeff Lennox, who has directed Barton to appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament in two of the last three seasons via winning the league tournament.
“I think we need to be a team,” Lennox said. “We need to learn how to be a team. We didn’t play as a team. We don’t play as six people on the court; we play as individuals. We need to play as a team.”
Limestone had no issues in that regard, racking up more than twice as many kills (44) as the Lady Bulldogs (20). The Lady Saints, led by freshman Jordan Bowen on the attack, confounded Barton from multiple angles along the front line. Bowen had 15 kills, one prompting a chant of “she’s a freshman” from the Limestone bench in the midst of the Lady Saints’ 8-0 run to open the second set.
“We talk about Elkins as being LeBron James,” Limestone head coach Brandon Skweres said. “And she’s going to score. It’s OK for her to score points. We’ve got to limit everybody else, and we’ve got to slow things down. Tonight, we served so aggressive. We took them out of system a lot.”
Bowen was joined by Madysen Williams on the Limestone attack with 13 kills. Aiden Rohrer added nine as the Lady Saints hit .320 during the three-set sweep. A torrid .400 showing highlighted the opening set.
Barton failed to hold a lead at any point until the second of consecutive kills by freshman Allison Gambill staked the Lady Bulldogs to a 6-5 edge in the third set. But from a 10-10 showing, Limestone went on a 4-0 spurt to take the lead for good.
From 14-13 on an ace by sophomore Anna Thompson, the Lady Bulldogs closed play by dropping 11 of the final 14 points.
“We definitely weren’t ourselves,” senior middle blocker Kelsey Riquelme said. “And that’s not our style. We’ve definitely got to pick it up tomorrow, because we did not play very well. But I have confidence that we’ll bounce back and see how it goes. We’ve just got to come back from it.”
Freshman Megan McCain and sophomore Sarah Kirk combined for 18 assists on Barton’s 20 kills, with McCain finishing with 10.
Limestone compiled 52 digs, 19 coming from Bailey Carpenter. Gambill and Thompson had nine each for Barton.
The Lady Bulldogs continue their tour of Wilson County public high schools Saturday with another conference match against Converse, this time at Beddingfield.
Yet in the 18-hour turnaround, Barton has its issues to address.
“If we start caring about each other more and be a team, we’ll be OK,” Lennox surmised.