Cochran, Micol fuel Barton five-set rally over Converse

Junior Melissa Cochran had a career-high 23 kills in Barton's 3-2 home win against Converse on Tuesday | by Benny Benton
Junior Melissa Cochran had a career-high 23 kills in Barton's 3-2 home win against Converse on Tuesday | by Benny Benton

by Benny Benton

WILSON, N.C. – Barton College produced a tremendous fourth-set rally, overcoming six match points for Converse College, and went on to claim a five-set victory, 21-25, 25-16, 23-25, 31-29, 15-8, in Conference Carolinas women's volleyball play Tuesday night at Wilson Gym.

Junior Melissa Cochran and freshman Kaitlyn Micol each delivered career highs in kills, Cochran collecting 23 and Micol producing 20, many of them at key points in the match.

With the win, Barton improved to 13-10 overall and 9-5 in the league. In doing so, the Lady Bulldogs held on to third place in the conference standings. Converse dropped to 4-9 in the league and 4-21 overall.

Cochran, whose previous career high in kills was 21 against Coker near the end of her freshman season in 2011, produced 22 of her 23 kills in the middle three sets. Four of those spikes came with the Lady Bulldogs facing match points for the Valkyries, two of them consecutively.

Converse took a 24-22 advantage on a kill by Scottie Kay Auton, giving the Valkyries two shots at closing out the contest. A Cochran kill cut the margin to one at 24-23, and the Valkyries called timeout before the two sides produced the point of the match. The ball traded sides 13 times, with Barton libero Corinna Morton delivering five consecutive digs, at least two of them on attacks that seemed destined for the floor. Alex Ward came up with the sixth dig for the Lady Bulldogs on the point, and Amber Kelly set the ball to Cochran, who hammered it home to tie the match at 24-all.

Ward then served an ace, giving Barton a set point, but served the next one out, knotting the match back at 25-all. Converse went ahead by a point four more times, but two more kills by Cochran and one by Micol kept Barton alive. The Valkyries had a service error on the fourth of those match points, tying the score at 29-all. An attack error by Converse gave the Lady Bulldogs another set point, and Micol smacked a service ace just inside the back line to give Barton the hard-fought set, 31-29.

The Lady Bulldogs had trailed 18-10 at one point in the set, but a fired-up crowd in the Dog House for Spirit Night helped keep Barton energized and in the match.

If the middle three sets were Cochran's, the final set was all Micol's. The freshman from Hillsborough, N.C., accounted for half of the 15 points in the final frame, collecting six kills and two blocks.

Micol had both blocks, one assisted by Cochran and the other by Brittany Edwards, and three of the six kills during a stretch when Barton turned a 2-all tie into a 10-3 lead. Converse got as close as 10-6 on an Ashley Biggs kill, but Micol had consecutive kills to put the Lady Bulldogs back up 12-6, and Barton was not threatened again.  Senior Jordan Lee had the final kill, ironically on a rare set by Cochran, just the fourth of the year for the 6-5 middle blocker.

Micol's previous high in her young career was 19 kills in a home win against Limestone on Oct. 15.

As a team, Barton hit .500 in the final set, led by Micol at .714.

While Barton rallied late in the match, it was Converse who did so in the first set. The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 12-3 lead in the opening frame, but the Valkyries stormed back, first behind Samantha Haynes, who had two consecutive kills and three in a span of five points as Converse began its comeback. Biggs and Auton  teamed up for three blocks in the second half of the set, and the Valkyries won eight points with Aubrey Crosby at the service line, as Barton struggled to solve her soft, looping approaches.

The last of the blocks by Biggs and Auton tied the match at 20-all, and three straight attack errors, set up by Crosby's serves, gave Converse a 23-20 lead. The Valkyries finished off the comeback with a Jenna Martin ace.

Cochran, who did not have a kill in set one, made up for it in set two, dominating the frame with eight kills. She added eight more in set three, but in that frame, Biggs, Katie Butler and Michaela Evers helped the Valkyries keep pace. Butler had four of her team-high 15 kills in the set, while Biggs added three of her 11 kills in the frame. Evers added three of her eight kills during the set.

Barton enjoyed as much as a four-point lead through the first half of the set, but Converse hit .290 in the set, its best effort of the night, to rally. The Lady Bulldogs led as late as 22-21, and the two sides were tied at 23-all after a Micol kill, but consecutive kills by Butler and Biggs finished off the set for the Valkyries.

Crosby had a match-high 19 digs for Converse, while Martin had 20 assists and Kandace Griffin added 17. Biggs accounted for three of the Valkyries' 11 aces, and Auton led both sides with nine blocks.

Lee contributed eight kills for Barton, with Edwards chipping in a team-high six blocks. Morton had 17 digs, with Ward adding 14 and Micol contributing 11. Morton, Amanda Grandy and Catherine Barber each had three of the Lady Bulldogs' 15 aces.

Barton will hold its final home match of the regular-season on Friday, taking on rival Mount Olive College at 7 p.m.