Correction: The Appalachian erroneously reported that the volleyball team set a record, winning 16-straight matches. The win streak tied a program record, but did not set one. The story has been corrected.
The App State volleyball team (20-4, 13-0 Sun Belt) celebrated their Senior Day by tying a school record, notching their 16th straight win with a 3-0 sweep against conference rival Georgia Southern (8-18, 3-11 SBC) Friday.
The win may have looked easy when viewing the final score but it was a tough battle by Georgia Southern, who tried to pull the winning momentum away from the Mountaineers.
App State came out strong to begin the first set as they took an early 19-6 lead against the Eagles. Junior middle blocker Ashton Gregory had a strong first set with six attacks, four digs and three kills.
Gregory felt the team came out stronger in the first set rather than the next two.
“We did well in the first set. We let some plays get away from us in the second and definitely in third,” Gregory said. “We need to clean up our errors by Sunday.”
App State held on to win the first set 25-14 while holding Georgia Southern to a .023 hitting percentage while the Mountaineers had a .289.
Senior Paige Brown felt the first set had a different feel than other matches they have had at home.
“Usually we start out flat at home, so for us to come out fired up in that first set, I think it was really good,” Brown said.
Momentum continued to build in the second set as the Mountaineers jumped out to another early 18-8 lead.
With the team feeling confident, head coach Matt Ginipro told the team on the bench that they could not let the Eagles back in the game.
“The one thing we talked about before was that you can’t give a team like that any hope. I think we did,” Ginipro said.
Georgia Southern scored five straight points to make the score 19-14. The Eagles then brought the score within four at 21-17.
App State held on to win the set 25-18 and take a 2-0 lead before the break. At the break, Gregory was leading the team with 10 kills, seniors Emily Corrigan and Jess Keller had eight kills and senior Paige Brown finished with 28 assists.
The third set did not begin well when Georgia Southern took a 3-1 lead, which gave the Eagles some hope.
The set stayed tight after that point and it was back and forth until the Mountaineers took the largest lead of the set while winning 16-10.
“We take everything as a step in the process,” Corrigan said. “We would have loved to make it a total shutout and not as close the last set but we were able to respond. For us to show that fight, it will help us.”
The Eagles, however, did not go away as they stormed back, scoring eight out of the next nine points and tied it up at 19 a piece.
“I think they played well in the third set but I think a lot of it was on our side. We missed a couple serving zones and were not playing great defense,” Ginipro said.
App State battled back and forth with the Eagles after they tied it up until they held on to win the set 27-25 and win with a 3-0 sweep. Brown finished with 43 assists and Gregory led the team with 17 kills.
The Mountaineers did not play as well as they started, but Paige Brown felt it was their fault and that the mistakes can be corrected going forward.
“Our errors are what kept us so close in the third set. That is good though because it is fixable,” Brown said.
The win was a perfect end to the day when the team’s four seniors, Corrigan, Brown, Keller and Meghan Mahoney were honored at the end of the game.
“It kind of hit me that volleyball will be over soon. We want to win the championship still. It relit that fire in me,” Brown said.
App State will try to continue their win streak and stay undefeated in the conference as they have back to back games this weekend against Arkansas State who is also undefeated in the conference.
“At this point we’ve had a heck of a season,” Corrigan said. “You cannot paint a better picture. We are both undefeated and we just have to go and compete. They are an awesome team and it will be really good volleyball.”
App State volleyball plays Arkansas State Sunday with the Sun Belt on the line at 12:30 p.m. at Holmes Convocation Center.
Story by: Jason Huber, Sports Reporter