Groen, Hein, Wilson lead Camels to first win of Goral era


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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Campbell showed its resiliency under first-year head coach Greg Goral with a thrilling five-set victory over host William & Mary, 3-2 (25-27, 26-24, 25-19, 23-25, 15-11) at the Tribe Invitational on Saturday morning in Kaplan Arena. The Camels conclude the Tribe Invitational at 5 p.m. against San Jose State. 

A trio of Camels - senior setter Heather Wilson (Concord, N.C.), junior outside Jessica Groen (Las Cruces, N.M.) and sophomore outside Alexis Hein (Murrieta, Calif.) - each notched double-doubles. A career-high 15 kills and 14 digs were registered by Groen. Hein also posted a personal best 10 kills and 22 digs.

The Campbell (1-1) offense was guided by Wilson with 47 assists, while the senior added 19 digs and seven kills. Hitting double-digits in kills was senior middle blocker Lindsey Coats (Dunn, N.C.) with 12.

"It feels great to get that first win under my belt," said coach Goral. "I am very proud of this team because they worked hard and played with a lot of passion and intensity. Our dig total show how hard we worked and how much we wanted it."

The defensive battle between the two squads saw the Camels win the dig battle, 120 to 117, the most for the squad since posting 123 against Mercer on Oct. 24, 2009. Sophomore libero Mary Crema (Loveland, Ohio) tallied a career-best 29 digs, while 16 were contributed by classmate Katelyn Layden (Chapel Hill, N.C.), who added seven kills.

"Our six rotation players (Layden, Hein and Wilson) did a great job of making sure that we had continuity on the court and poise," said coach Goral. "They did an unbelievable job for all five games."

At the net, Campbell blocked down 13 attacks led by the presence of sophomore middle blocker Lorin Thomas (Raleigh, N.C.) with seven. Coats contribued five, including a game-high two solo, while Wilson and Groen each registered two.

William & Mary (0-2) notched a pair of double-doubles as Paulette Grand Pre tallied 11 kills and 12 digs, while setter Paige Lucas filled the stat sheet with 28 assists and 19 digs. A match-high 31 digs were recorded by Celine Alasomuka. Gabrielle Pe (14) and Desi Koleva (11) also hit double digits in digs.

The decisive frame saw the Camels build a 9-3 advantage as Hein and Coats blocked down a Tribe attack. William & Mary fought back though, forcing two Campbell timeouts to pull within one, 12-11.

Coach Goral was able to rally the troops as Hein recorded a sideout with a kill, then went on the offense with a service ace. Thomas and Groen clinched the match with a block, 15-11.

"We have a balanced offense," said coach Goral. "There is no one player that we have to go to every day, because we know that someone is going to step up into that role. Today, we were able to distribute the ball and everybody was effective."

Each of the first two frames went back and forth as the teams combined for 33 ties and 13 lead changes.

William & Mary escaped set point in the first, 24-23, on a service error and picked up a 27-25 win following back-to-back kills by Michelle Heath. Campbell notched the first set win in the Goral era by earning a sideout on a Layden kill and taking advantage of a pair of Tribe mistakes, 26-24.

The strong service of Hein and Crema helped Campbell rally to a 6-1 lead. The Tribe came within two points, 20-18, before the Camels pulled together and scored on five of the next six rallies, 25-19.

In the fourth frame, three-straight kills by Thomas, Coats and Wilson swung moment in favor of the Camels to begin the frame. There were nine ties and five lead changes in the frame before William & Mary notched a 25-23 victory.

The emergence of Groen with eight kills in the frame provided confidence in the loss heading to the fifth set. A match-high 18 kills were tallied by the Camels, but the Tribe answered by being more efficient in hitting at a .235 rate with 14 balls touching the floor.

The first mid-week matchup of the campaign is set for Tuesday at Elon with the first serve set for 7 p.m.

The Camels open the homes slate at Gore Arena/John W. Pope Convocation Center with the Hampton Inn of Holly Springs Invitational on Friday at 3 p.m. against N.C. Central. Indiana State faces Campbell later that night at 8 p.m. before the Camels wrap up the event at 1:30 p.m. the following day.