Lady Buffs repel Union in season opener

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR CORRESPONDENT
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It was a herd of Lady Buffaloes that trampled a litter of Bulldogs on Thursday as Milligan College defeated Union College in three out of four sets in its volleyball season opener.
   "I was very pleased with the girls," said Milligan head coach Kim Hyatt. "We've been working on defense, and that was a key tonight. We hit our areas in response and jelled together as a team."
   Milligan won the first two sets by a stellar margin, but Union came back in the third to force a another set, which ended in the Buffaloes' favor with a come-from-behind win.
   Trailing in game one by four points in the early going, Milligan stepped it up to grab the lead on a 9-3 run to go ahead 14-12.
   It was neck and neck between the two, until Lindsey Wetherholt had a soft touch on the kill, which put Milligan on a 9-1 assault to capture the first set 30-22.
   In the second set, the Buffaloes jumped out to a 10-2 advantage right off the bat.
   A dominating performance by the play around the net, with Melanie Reed and Wendy Weaver taking charge, seemed to be the difference in this set.
   "Offensive hitting was stronger, and we have better offensive coverage this year. They are all working together," said Hyatt.
   The Lady Buffs continued to hold their lead as Union close the gap to four at one point, but this was as far as the visitors came.
   Milligan went on an 11-4 tear after that to bury the Bulldogs in a 30-19 final, which ended with a slam on a kill from Christianne Figueria.
   "It was a strong show from all the girls, and everybody had a role and they played it to their fullest," said Hyatt.
   It looked as if the night was going to end early to start the third set, as Milligan captured an 8-2 lead. It was able to maintain the advantage two thirds of the way through, but Union came back to get the upper hand, 21-19.
   Union stretched the margin to six after a kill came from Angelica Varani, but the Buffaloes rolled off five straight points to pull back within one.
   A couple of great saves were made by Milligan, as one of those came from Heather Lanning on a diving dig to keep the ball in play.
   It was a see-saw battle to the end, until Jill Ender made the kill for the Bulldogs to get the 30-28 victory.
   Union looked to carry on their momentum in the fourth set, as it scored the first four points of the game.
   Milligan battled back to tie it at eight, and eventually take a 13-11 lead after back-to-back kills were made by Melissa Mills and Wetherholt.
   This set flipped-flopped several times, as neither team could assert itself in taking control.
   It appeared that Union was going to survive and take it to a fifth and final set, but the Buffaloes were starting to taste victory as they trailed 27-24.
   A kill made by Christina Medlin got the ball rolling for Milligan, then came a mistake by Union, which was called for crossing the net.
   Two straight ace serves by Weaver put Milligan back on top, and it never looked back in rambling off six straight scores.
   "Serving was a big plus for us tonight. We didn't have too many errors, so that helped out a lot," said Hyatt.
   The last two scores came when Medlin tapped the ball to an open area, and Staci Turkelson was unable to knock ball across the net in Union's final attempt.
   "Everybody just did what I asked them to do, and the result of it was a win," said Hyatt.