Top-Seeded Wingate Defeats Fifth-Seeded Trojans in NCAA Regional Semifinals

Box Score

WINGATE, N.C. – The fifth-seeded Anderson volleyball team saw its run in the 2013 NCAA Southeast Region Tournament halted by top-seeded and ninth-ranked Wingate, 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-22) Friday night at the Bulldogs’ Cuddy Arena.

One day after notching the first NCAA Tournament win in school history with an upset of No. 4 seed Tusculum, the Trojans were unable to match the feat against the ‘Dogs.

Anderson closed its season with a 19-15 record, while Wingate, the eight-time defending South Atlantic Conference Tournament Champions, improved to 31-2 in its sixth consecutive NCAA regional semifinal matchup. The Bulldogs won their 28th straight match and move on to meet No. 2 Armstrong in Saturday’s Sweet 16 matchup.

“We talked about a lot of key things we needed to do tonight, but we didn't execute as well as we needed to,” said Anderson head coach Craig Mosqueda. “This has been a great year for us and we are in a good position to do well in the future. With the majority of the team returning and with the talent in our incoming class, I am excited for the future.” 

Meeting for the fourth time this season and the second time in a two-week span, the familiar foes saw Wingate snap an early 5-5 tie in the opening set with a 4-1 run. But the Trojans battled back to even the score at nine apiece, as redshirt freshman Priscilla Irizarry posted three consecutive kills for AU. However, the Bulldogs’ Allison Rickher snapped the Trojan run with a kill and gave Wingate a lead it would not relinquish, as the Bulldogs went on a 12-3 outburst to take their largest lead of the frame, at 21-12. Anderson outside hitter Shannon Gillespie then notched the first of four unanswered points for AU, with junior setter Meghan Cautero adding a kill and the Bulldogs committing back-to-back errors, as the Trojans pulled within 21-16. But AU would get no closer, as Wingate posted four of the final six points to finish the set.

Wingate took an early lead in the second frame and the Trojans were unable to pull even with the Bulldogs. Leading, 5-4, Wingate rattled off another 12-3 run to open a double-digit advantage and led by as many as 12 down the stretch before claiming the set. 

The Trojans fell behind, 9-4, in the third set, but pulled within three on two occasions before the Bulldogs used an 8-2 surge to take a double-digit, 21-11, advantage. Still trailing by 10, Gillespie ignited a furious rally that saw the Trojans rally back within two points on two occasions before Wingate pulled out the victory. Gillespie added another kill and a pair of service aces, while Irizarry tallied three kills and a block assist during the comeback. The Trojans climbed within 23-21 as Irizarry and freshman Jessica Harris combined on the block assist and following a kill by the Bulldogs’ Lexi Potter, Irizarry posted her 10th kill of the night to get AU within 24-22. But WU’s Susie Murach finished the set with a kill.

Anderson was looking for its second win in school history past the Bulldogs and its’ first since Oct. 1, 1999, when the Trojans were in their first year as a member of NCAA Division II. Wingate has won 13 straight over AU and leads the overall series, 13-1.

Anderson recorded a season-low .069 hitting percentage, with Irizarry recording a match-high 10 kills, while adding  five assists, four digs and three blocks. Gillespie, a First-Team All-Southeast Region selection, added eight kills, three service aces and eight digs in the night. The Fishers, Ind. native now holds the school record for kills in a single season with 526, and is currently seventh in AU’s record books with 1,193 career kills.  

Junior middle hitter Hailey Pittman, a Second-Team All-Southeast Region selection, finished with six kills and two digs. Pittman now owns the 10th-highest single-season kill total in AU history, and currently ranks 10th in school record books with 892 kills. Cautero, in her final appearance wearing the Black and Gold, recorded 20 assists and finished her career with 2,929 assists to rank fourth all-time. All-SAC Tournament selection Alix Hooker notched 13 digs versus the Bulldogs en route to setting a new single-season school record with 670 digs and is seventh in the AU record books with 1,524 career digs. Junior Kelley Lacey posted 13 digs on the night.

Potter and Murach had nine kills each to lead the Wingate attack. Potter hit .643 with three blocks, while Murach had four blocks. Seniors Anna Hilton and Rickher added seven kills each. Rickher hit .500 to go along with four blocks, while Hilton added 10 digs and two blocks. Redshirt junior Alison Cooke had 31 assists, nine digs and five kills, while junior libero Stephanie Tassone had 11 digs.

As a team, the Trojans set new single-season records with the sixth-highest kill tally (1,557), seventh-highest assist total (1,466) and sixth-highest dig tally (2,314) in school history.

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