Sporer, Linden lead Panthers to LEC win after facing 0-2 deficit
GORHAM, Maine – Senior Claire Sporer (Medford, Ore.) pounded down 15 kills, including five in the decisive fifth set, to lead the Plymouth State University women's volleyball team to a dramatic, 3-2 (21-25, 16-25, 25-23, 26-24, 15-12), come-from-behind win over the University of Southern Maine in a key Little East Conference (LEC) match at Hill Gymnasium.
Junior Ari Linden (Lena, Ill.) added 12 kills and two blocks in the victory.
"Wow, what a match," said head coach Chris Kilmer. "We struggled with our ball control in the early going, but this team really fought. It was a total team win with contributions from everyone up and down the roster. I'm really proud of the way we battled tonight, but especially with the way different players stepped up in high pressure situations."
USM, led by senior Jess Williamson's (Goffstown, N.H.) match-high 21 kills, came out firing in the early going, building a 2-0 lead while Plymouth struggled to get on track.
With their backs against the wall the Panthers responded. The visitors built an early lead in the third set, then held off a late run by the Huskies. PSU served leading 24-23 and Sporer came up with a key solo block to seal the win and force a fourth set.
The Plymouth offense clicked in the fourth, driving home 18 kills while hitting .361. PSU maintained a four-point lead for much of the set but the Huskies fought back, eventually evening the score at 24-24. Sporer smashed a kill down the line then went back and served an ace to give Plymouth State the 26-24 win, setting up the decisive fifth set.
The Huskies jumped out to an early 5-2 lead, but another kill from Sporer led to a long service run from senior Megan Bailey (Canterbury, N.H.) and the Panthers charged back to pull ahead 9-5. USM responded, cutting the deficit to 10-9, before Plymouth regained control. Kills from sophomore Alexis Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and Linden gave PSU a 13-9 lead, but again the Huskies came back, cutting the margin to 13-12. Bailey's tip landed to give the Panthers match-point, and following a lengthy rally with a key dig from senior Grace Sporer (Medford, Ore.), Bowers' cross-court kill wrapped up the improbable victory and dashed the Huskies' hopes for their first-ever win against the Panthers.
PSU has won four-of-five matches to improve to 13-6 overall and 2-1 in LEC action. Southern Maine, which had won seven straight matches, falls to 12-5 and 1-2 in league play.
Junior Jill Tiner (Salem, N.H.) added nine kills for the Panthers, with Bowers and freshman Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.) each chipping in with six. Bailey posted a match-high 42 assists and added three of PSU's 12 aces. Senior Brenna Peruch (Cave Creek, Ariz.) and G. Sporer led the Panthers with 12 and 10 digs respectively.
The Panthers will travel to Babson College on Saturday for a trimatch featuring two of the top teams in New England based on the latest New England Women's Volleyball Association (NEWVA) rankings. PSU will face the host Beavers (#6) and Endicott College (T-#9) with matches scheduled for 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
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