In a battle of the last two unbeaten teams in CAA play, the College of Charleston volleyball team lost a five set thriller to Hofstra on Friday night at TD Arena.
The Cougars (12-8, 4-1 CAA) looked to be in trouble early on as they were thoroughly outplayed in the first set, losing 25-17 to the Pride.
Charleston regained its footing in the second set, playing a close game with Hofstra until breaking it open down the stretch. The Cougars led by two for most of the game until an attack error by Hofstra gave Charleston an 18-15 lead. Cara Howley and Melissa Morello converted on back-to-back kills to extend the lead to five. The Cougars closed the set out thanks to a finishing kill by Morello to take the game, 25-17.
The Pride took back control of the match in the third set, jumping out to an early 7-2 lead. They would maintain a healthy lead until Charleston closed the gap to four, 17-13. Hofstra, however, did not led the Cougars any closer, eventually taking the third set, 25-20.
With their backs against the wall, the Charleston ladies showed their championship-caliber fight in the fourth set. The Cougars led early on in the set, before Hofstra tied the game at 11. Charleston regained the lead thanks to hits by Kallie McKown and Sloane White, going up 20-17 late. The Pride threatened late, closing the gap to 24-23, but a kill by Howley won the set and forced a tie-breaking fifth stanza.
The fifth set was a game of runs by both teams. Hofstra opened to a 5-2 advantage before Charleston closed the gap to 6-5. The Pride then took an 11-7 lead, but the Cougars rattled off three straight points to get within one. After Hofstra took a 13-11 lead, a double block by White and Maddie Hills tied the game at 13. Charleston failed to take a lead, as the Pride converted on two consecutive kills to take the match.
The loss marked just the second time since Charleston joined the CAA that the Cougars lost to a conference opponent at TD Arena.
Howley led the team with 19 kills. Morello (18 kills, 18 digs) and McKown (26 assists, 15 digs) both turned in double-double performances. Senior libero Andi Zbojniewicz had 37 digs in the contest, the fifth highest single match total in program history.
Charleston will play game two of a back-to-back weekend at TD Arena tonight, as they take on 2013 CAA runner-up Northeastern at 7 p.m.