FRANKLIN – Following five straight matches away from their home court, the Franklin College volleyball team returned to action in the Spurlock Center on Saturday afternoon with matches against Manchester University and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
The Grizzlies (10-5, 0-1 HCAC) and Spartans engaged in an instant classic in each team's Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) opener, going the full five sets. In the end, the Spartans claimed victory, 33-31, 24-26, 18-25, 25-22, 15-13.
Franklin would salvage a split on the afternoon in game two, rallying from down a set to knock off the Pioneers in four, 15-25, 29-27, 25-13, 25-17.
Senior Amanda Lelivelt was a dominant force for the Grizzlies on Saturday, recording her first two double-digit kill games of the year and setting a career-high with 18 kills against Manchester. Lelivelt added nine service aces, 11 blocks and six digs on the day.
The opening set of game one against Manchester was a marathon that saw multiple lead changes and ties, but the Spartans took the final three points of the set to squeak by with a 33-31 win and a 1-0 lead. Franklin answered by taking set two in a similar fashion, grabbing the final three points for a 26-24 win to even things up a game each.
A 7-1 Franklin run midway through the third set proved to be the difference in the Grizzlies' 25-18 game three win, putting the hosts a set away from victory. But it wasn't meant to be as the Spartans rallied to take each of the next two sets and escape with the all-important conference win.
Gab Arthur finished with a season-high 17 digs and matched her 2017 best with 24 digs against the Spartans. Avery Sparks and Brooke Harvey hit double-digit kills with 13 and 11, respectively. Libby Stahl's 33 digs led the Grizzlies and Nico Morris' 61 assists were a new career high.
After dropping the first set in match two against the Pioneers, the Grizzlies were starting at a two-set deficit after falling behind UWP, 27-26. But a Pioneers service error and back-to-back aces from Lelivelt gave Franklin a comeback win to even things up and set the tone for the rest of the match.
With momentum tilted in their favor, Franklin cruised to victories in the next two sets. Lelivelt and Harvey were the driving forces on offense, recording 11 kills each. Lelivelt also set a new career-high with a whopping eight service aces against the Pioneers. Stahl's 12 digs led all Grizzlies and Morris finished with 30 assists.
The Grizzlies will have a week off before they jump back into conference play on Saturday, Sept. 30. Franklin travels to Defiance for a 1:30 p.m. start.