Cougars crumble in season-opening tournament

Cougars crumble in season-opening tournament

Cougars take on Purdue during the Mortar Board Finale in West Lafayette, IN (College of Charleston Athletics)

College of Charleston head volleyball coach Jason Kepner knew that there might be some growing pains after losing four seniors from last year’s Southern Conference-winning squad. He probably didn’t think it would be this rough.

The Cougars were battered by strong competition in the first tournament of the season, the Mortar Board Premier at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind., this weekend.

They fell to Virginia Commonwealth, 3-1; lost to Baylor, 3-0; and, even though they pushed Purdue to 24-24 in the first set, slumped to a 3-0 defeat to the No. 13 Boilermakers.

Kepner’s assessment of the team’s loss to VCU summed up a lost weekend for the team.

“I thought we competed well today,” Kepner said. “We tried to rely on our ball control, but VCU outdid us on that today. I was a little disappointed in how we handled their serve. We made some errors that made it easier for them. We had our opportunities to send it to five sets but just couldn’t get it there.”

Senior Sarah Havel had 25 kills at a .273 attack percentage to earn a spot on the all-tournament team, but she was the only player with significant touches to post an attack percentage of better than .250. Overall, the team recorded a .140 percentage (kills minus errors, divided by total attacks), while the Cougars’ three opponents averaged .334.

The Cougars’ best set of the weekend was actually against their toughest opponent. The Boilermakers made the Elite Eight last season, and finished 11th in RPI. But Charleston hung with their hosts in the first set, with neither team able to push a lead beyond two points. The Cougars saved a pair of set points to pull back from 24-22 to 24-all, before the Boilermakers finally put the visitors away with the last two points of the set.

The Cougars opened strongly in both the second and third sets, locking Purdue up at 7-7 in the second and 8-8 in the third. But Purdue’s Big Ten experience showed through as the hosts closed out both sets at 25-14.

Charleston will be back on the road this weekend at the Georgia State Invitational in Atlanta, against 2010 NCAA Tournament team Harvard, Jacksonville State and Georgia State.

The Cougars open their home schedule on Friday, Sept. 9, when they host the CofC Invitational at TD Arena (formerly Carolina First Arena). They host Winthrop at 7 p.m. on Sept. 9, South Carolina at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 and Clemson at 7 p.m. on Sept. 10.

Follow and @GeorgeStSports on Twitter for the College of Charleston’s student voice on Cougar athletics.

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