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McCall Denny
McCall Denny had seven kills for the Mountaineers.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Volleyball Falls to James Madison to Open Sun Belt Conference Play

The App State volleyball team opened Sun Belt Conference action on Friday, falling to JMU in four sets (3-1 (25-22, 25-21, 19-25, 25-21)).

Fifth-year senior McCall Denny posted a team-high 12 kills in addition to 13 digs, recording her 22nd career double-double and fifth of the 2023 campaign. Sophomore Maya Winterhoff totaled seven blocks (one solo, six assists) in addition to six kills, while fellow sophomore Kenady Roper posted a team-high 16 digs. Redshirt freshman Katie Cruise made 16 assists, while senior Sophie Cain posted 14. Junior Lauren Pledger posted four blocks (two solo, two assists). App State outpaced JMU in the aces category (5-3) and blocks category (14-12).

The Mountaineers and Dukes went point-for-point early in the first set until the Dukes distanced themselves with a 5-0 scoring run to take an 11-6 lead. App State met the Dukes at 13-13, building off a trio of kills from Winterhoff, an ace from sophomore Alyssa McBean, a block from Winterhoff/Denny and a pair of JMU errors. App State and JMU kept pace with each other, meeting again at 19 all, but JMU maintained a steady edge over the Mountaineers to take the set, 25-22.

Building off momentum from the first set, JMU jumped to an early lead in the second, leaving the Mountaineers to play catch up. Back-to-back kills from Pledger and junior Lulu Ambrose, as well as a Roper ace, cut the deficit to two (20-18). Freshman Ava Leahy posted a late kill and the Mountaineers held JMU to two set points after a JMU error and kill from Winterhoff. JMU took the second set, 25-21.

Trailing early in the third set, the Mountaineers found their footing, tying the score at five all with a kill from Ambrose. A 4-0 scoring run that featured a pair of kills from Ambrose brought App State to a 9-6 lead. A kill from Denny, JMU error, and block from Winterhoff/freshman Delanie Grevengoed put App State up 13-9. App State extended the deficit with a 4-0 run that included a kill from Denny and solo block from Winterhoff (17-10). The Black and Gold jumped ahead, 22-11, with five unanswered points, which included kills from Winterhoff and Ambrose, in addition to blocks from Ambrose and Leahy/Winterhoff. A kill from Winterhoff brought App State’s lead to 23-12. JMU mustered a 7-0 run to close the deficit to 23-19, but the Mountaineers took the third set, 25-19, after a pair of opponent errors.

Denny opened the fourth set with a quick kill. JMU answered with a 5-0 run before Denny slammed down another kill. The Mountaineers steadily chipped away at JMU’s early lead with a pair of 3-0 runs that featured kills from Denny and Grevengoed as well as a block from Grevengoed/Pledger that cut the deficit to 15-12. A block from Ambrose/Winterhoff and a kill from Denny brought the Mountaineers within two of JMU’s 19-17 lead. A kill from Denny and an ace from Winterhoff cut the lead to one at 20-19. Pledger made the Mountaineers’ final kill before JMU took the set (25-21) and the match (3-1).

The Mountaineers return to the court at 1 p.m. on Saturday for their second battle with the Dukes. Saturday’s match will be Bingo Day. Volleyball bingo cards will be available for fans. There will also be a canned food drive for the Hunger and Health Coalition. Fans are encouraged to bring canned goods and non-perishable items. The match will be available to stream on ESPN+.