COLUMBIA — The Claflin University volleyball team fell to Benedict, 3-2 (25-23, 20-25, 25-20, 27-25, 13-15) in its Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Eastern Division opener.

With the loss the Lady Panthers drop to 3-9 overall and 3-5 in the SIAC. Benedict improves to 6-7 overall and 5-6 in the SIAC.

Claflin had three players to finish with double-digit kills, led by Jordan Wallace with 16. Diara Lewis put down 15 and Jala Roberts contributed 11 in the match. Wallace also had seven total blocks, two solos and five assists. Chania Rispress put up 48 set assists with seven total blocks (2 solos-5 assists).

Benedict was led by Adrionna Washington and Torcealon Kelley with 22 and 21 kills, respectively. Brianne McMillian had a match-high 56 set assists for the Lady Tigers in the win.

Set One of the match was back and forth over the first 25 points with neither team taking more than a three-point lead. Claflin managed to take a five point lead late in the set (21-16) but Benedict kept fighting. The Lady Tigers used a 6-1 run to pull the set even at 22-all. Claflin scored the next three-of-four points to take the set 25-23.

Set Two belonged to Benedict early. After exchanging points of the first 10 serves, the Lady Tigers took control. Benedict scored four straight points to take a 9-5 lead. The Lady Tigers would go up by as many as six on two occasions and own their largest lead of eight (17-9) but Claflin remained poised, slowly chipping away at the lead. The Lady Panthers used a 4-1 run to cut the deficit to four, 18-14. After exchanging the next four service points, Claflin offense became aggressive. The Lady Panthers scored the next four points to pull within two, 21-19, but the Lady Tigers kept pushing. Benedict scored the last four of five points en route to winning set two, 25-20.

Set Three was another back-and-forth set with eight ties and six lead changes. After a 15-15 tie midway thru the set, Claflin used a 5-2 run to go up 20-17 and take control of the set. The Lady Panthers maintained the momentum, closing the set on a 5-3 run en route to the 25-20 set three victory.

Claflin scored the first two points of set four and pushed the lead to 5-3 before Benedict offense picked up the aggression. The Lady Panthers managed to maintain a two-point lead over the next few exchanges before the Lady Tigers pulled even at 9-all. The teams exchanged points throughout the remainder of the set, with Benedict coming out on top, 27-25, and forcing a fifth and deciding set.

Claflin took an 3-0 lead to start the final set but Benedict quickly countered with three points of their own. The Lady Panthers regained the momentum, stretching the lead to 6-3, and forcing the Lady Tigers into its their timeout of the set. Benedict scored the first point out of the timeout but the Claflin scored the next two of three points to take an 8-5 advantage in the set. Benedict scored five straight points after the changeover to take the 10-8 lead and force the Lady Panthers into its first timeout of the set. Claflin scored four-of-five points out of the timeout to take the 12-11 lead. Benedict scored the final three of five points to win the set 15-13 and the match 3-2.

Claflin will face Paine College in Augusta, Ga., Oct. 3 before making up road games with UNC-Pembroke (Oct. 5) and Fayetteville State (Oct. 6) which were rescheduled due to Hurricane Irma.

The Lady Panthers will return home Thursday (Oct. 12) to host Albany State in their Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) home opener. All home matches will be played at Tullis Arena inside the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center on the campus of Claflin University.