Charlotte's volleyball team hosted Florida International over the weekend in their first home series of the year. The 49ers picked up two wins, both by a score of 3-1.
After splitting a series with Marshall on the road, the Niners came back to Charlotte for their first home games.
Charlotte started out strong, outscoring FIU 25-13 in the opening set. Seven of FIU's 13 points came off of errors by the Niners. FIU came back in the second with a big set of their own, outscoring Charlotte 25-15.
Charlotte fought back hard in the third, scoring eight to FIU's two. The rest of the set was fairly even, finishing 25-18. FIU didn't stand a chance in the fourth. Charlotte took a 9-6 lead with momentum on their side before going on a 13-0 run to extend their lead by eighteen.
Charlotte went on to take the set 25-10 to win the match 3-1. Emani' Foster led the team in kills with 18 as well as hitting percentage with .394, her second-highest percentage this season. Annika Thompson's 23 assists make six straight games with 20+ assists for the Freshman Setter.
In a post-game interview, Head Coach Karen Weatherington enjoyed being back in home territory.
"We were happy to play at home and had a great opening match. We had outstanding blocking and great offensive production," said Weatherington. "Sydney (Rowan) carried a big load today, and we are so proud of her competitive leadership. We honored her for her 1,000th career kill today as well. It's not a surprise that she continues to be the cornerstone of our team."
Rowan finished the game with 15 kills on .273 hitting. She also led the team in total attempts with 44.
The Niners and FIU faced off again on Monday as Charlotte held FIU to just nine in the first set of game two. That was the lowest score in a set Charlotte has allowed since a game against Gardner-Webb back on Aug. 30, 2019.
The second set was even initially. The score was tied at 11 at one point before Charlotte's 14-2 run to close out the set 25-13. FIU then took a quick 7-1 lead in the third, three of those seven errors from the Niners.
After FIU took a 23-16 lead, Charlotte scored five straight points off of errors to bring them within two. But two attack errors by Charlotte helped FIU secure the set. Charlotte started set four with two scores but allowed six straight from FIU to fall behind by four.
The match was back and forth for a while. FIU still retained the four-point lead 23-19 and were nearing winning the set, but the Niners still had fight left. The Niners scored four straight, two of which coming off of kills by Amani McArthur, to tie the game up at 23.
A score from FIU followed by Charlotte's two more points gave the Niners their first advantage since leading 2-0 at the start of the set. A kill from Myrthe Maring and a ball-handling error by Annika Wetterstrom brought FIU back up by one, but Charlotte answered back with three unanswered points to secure the match victory thanks to their 28-26 set four wins. After the back-to-back wins over FIU, Charlotte is now 5-2 on the season, which is their best start to a season since 2012, when they started the season 7-2.
"We play our hearts out. Defensively, our team really lays it out on the line. They play with everything they have every time they step on the floor," said Weatherington after the game. "It's an amazing accomplishment as they continue to gel together. Sydney and Emani' are carrying a huge load of leadership for this team, offensive production and we have great people stepping up."
Individually, Charlotte's players were balanced, with no real stand-out performances but just a team effort. Annika Thompson's 26 assists led the team, followed by Annika Wetterstrom's 20. Thompson's 26 assists marked a new career-high for her. Lara Kretschmer led the team in hitting percentage with six kills on nine attempts. Forster and Rowan combined for 27 kills, which is just six less than FIU's total kills in game two.
Charlotte hits the road this weekend for a two-game series at Western Kentucky University. WKU is 7-0 and has beaten Charlotte in the last 12 matchups. They face off Feb. 21-22 at 2 p.m.