The No. 14 and top-seeded Wingate University women's volleyball team rallied for a four-set win over eighth-seeded Lees-McRae College in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Championships on Friday night in Cuddy Arena.
Wingate (31-0) maintained its unblemished record with a 23-25, 25-19, 25-19, and 25-14 win over Lees-McRae (27-9), posting a .250 hitting percentage while limiting the Bobcats to a .102 clip on the attack. The Bulldogs
tallied 13 blocks on the night, as the Bobcats posted 10 service aces.
Senior Megan Epperson (St. John, Ind.) posted a match-high 18 kills to finish her outstanding career as the program's all-time leader with 1,479 smashes. The three-time all-Conference Carolinas selection also concludes her career as the program's all-time leader in digs (1,237), service aces (168), and points (1,808.5) after digging out six Bulldog attacks.
Taylor Clendenin (Statesville, N.C.) chipped in nine kills, as Jessica Singewald (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and Lauren Fox (Garland, Texas) each tallied six smashes. Freshman Sariah Suryadevara (Cincinnati, Ohio) posted match-highs of 27 digs and seven service aces, as Megan Mitchell (Minden, Nev.) nearly tallied a double-double with 37 assists and nine digs.
Cory McGowan paced Wingate with 15 kills, as Grace Krauser and Anna Hilton chipped in nine and seven smashes, respectively. Liz Willis nearly tallied a double-double with 34 assists and nine digs, as Hilton and McGowan chipped in six and four blocks, respectively.
The Bobcats opened an early 16-13 lead in the first set, claiming the narrow three-point margin on back-to-back kills from Epperson and Clendenin before Wingate responded with an 8-3 run, taking a 21-19 lead on a Willis service ace. Lees-McRae countered with a 5-0 run, taking a 24-21 lead on back-to-back aces from Suryadevara. Wingate answered with a pair of points to trim the margin to 24-23 before Epperson closed out the set with an emphatic kill to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead in the match.
Wingate responded from an early 3-1 deficit with a 6-0 run, claiming a 7-3 lead on a Krauser kill. With the Bulldogs leading 15-10, the Bobcats went on a 4-0 spurt to cut the margin to 15-14 on a Mitchell ace. The Bulldogs countered with an 8-3 run, taking a 23-17 lead on a McGowan kill before Hilton evened the match with an emphatic smash.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 16-9 lead in the third on back-to-back kills from McGowan, before Wingate claimed a 22-14 lead on a Bobcat miscue. After Wingate pushed the Bobcats to set point at 24-16 and Lees-McRae trimmed the margin to 24-19 on back-to-back aces from Suryadevara, McGowan closed out the set with a kill to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 advantage in the match.
Wingate carried the momentum into the fourth set, opening the frame with a 14-8 run before pushing the margin to 18-9 on a tandem block by Hilton and Kelsey Handel. The Bulldogs then closed out the set and the match with a 7-5 spurt, capping the frame on a solo block by McGowan.
Lees-McRae is expected to return 10 letter-winners from this season's Conference Carolinas regular season and tournament championship squad, including Suryadevara, the league's Co-Freshman of the Year.
Photo Courtesy: Megan Epperson, LMC Athletics