"The crowd gave us energy in the close sets and long rallies."

The McPherson College volleyball team opened up Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference play with a victory Wednesday evening, dispatching Sterling College in four sets 25-16, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22. It was the home opener for Mac, played inside the Sport Center.

As she has done in each match of this young season, Lexi Kite led the way for the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0 KCAC). Kite amassed 23 digs and 21 kills to lead all players in both categories.

McPherson trailed 12-11 in the first set, but a pair of kills by Kite provided bookends to a 14-4 Bulldog run to close out the set.

The hosts sprinted out to an 8-2 lead to open the second set. Even with a 7-2 run midway through the set, Sterling (2-3, 0-1 KCAC) could get no closer that two points. McPherson finished the frame winning three of the last four rallies, using a Devrie Sombers kill to head to intermission with a two-set advantage.

The third set started as a back-and-forth affair with the largest lead early on being an 8-5 McPherson advantage after an attack error by Colleen Meffert. The Bulldogs tied the set at 19-all on a kill by Leia Seiler  off an assist by Morgan Little  but the Warriors finished with six of the final seven points to draw within a set at 2-1.

Like the third set, the fourth saw both teams make extended rallies. McPherson led 7-4 early on but Sterling rallied for four straight points to move in front 8-7. The Bulldogs then countered for six of the next eight to retake the lead at 13-10. The Warriors then went on a 6-1 run, going up 16-14 as McPherson committed four errors during the stretch. The hosts were able to regroup, scoring 10 of the next 14 points to set up match point at 24-20. A couple of unforced errors cut into the Bulldog advantage, but Kite closed out the match with another kill.

Seiler added 14 kills against just two errors with six digs for McPherson, while Sombers just missed double-digits in kills with nine. Little (23) and Kaitlyn Heinis (20) accounted for 43 of the Bulldogs' 46 assists, while Jamie Siess posted 21 digs and Rianne Richard had 13.

Chelsey Riffel led Sterling with 14 kills and seven digs, while Makenzie Cork finished with nine kills and four digs. Alexandra Reid (19), Lexi Naegele (15) and Kristen Calderwood (14) each registered double-digits in digs, while Mikaela Wells had 32 assists.

"Kite led the team offensively and defensively in a tough four-set win," said head coach Jessica Cleveland. "We flowed as a team tonight. Defense and passing kept us in the game, giving hitters the flexibility to swing away. The crowd gave us energy in the close sets and long rallies."

The Bulldogs are idle this weekend, returning the court next Wednesday, Sept. 6 against the University of Saint Mary in another KCAC tilt at Leavenworth. First serve for the varsity-only match is slated for 7 p.m.