#1 WINGATE 3, #3 ANDERSON 0 | BOX SCORE
Hickory, N.C.----The 12th-ranked Wingate University Bulldogs won their ninth consecutive South Atlantic Conference Tournament title Sunday afternoon, sweeping number three-seed Anderson University. Wingate won by scores of 25-18, 25-19 and 25-18 to improve to 31-2 overall. Anderson falls to 25-8 on the season. This marks the first time Wingate has swept all three SAC Tournament matches since the 2007 championship.
Wingate has now won 11 SAC Tournament titles all-time, while also winning 11 regular season SAC championships. Both numbers lead the conference. The 'Dogs have piled up 18 league championships over the past nine seasons. The victory also gives Wingate a good shot at hosting the NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament for the sixth time in seven years. The Bulldogs entered the SAC Tournament as the number one team in the region.
"It is a very rewarding experience for our team to accomplish the goal of winning all three matches this weekend and winning the championship," head coach Shelton Collier says. "To win one with this group is very special. When looking at the scores it may appear as an easy win, however, our team knows we had to play at a very high level and work really hard to win today. We are proud of representing Wingate with another championship."
Junior right-side hitter Shelly Stumpff (Iowa City, Iowa) had 17 kills, seven digs and three aces to lead the Wingate attack, hitting .300. Sophomore middle blocker Abby Saehler (Iowa City, Iowa) hit .625 with 11 kills, while senior outside hitter Susie Murach (Burke, Va.) also had 11 kills. Senior middle blocker Lexi Potter (North Liberty, Iowa) and freshman outside hitter Katie Bludau (Seabrook, Texas) contributed five kills apiece. Redshirt senior setter Alison Cooke (Davidson, N.C.) piled up 43 assists, 14 digs, three kills and three blocks, while freshman libero Kori Adams (Ayden, N.C.) had 26 digs. Cooke was named the SAC Tournament MVP, while Stumpff and Saehler also earned All-Tournament honors.
Hailey Pittman had eight kills to lead the Anderson attack. Shannon Gillespie and Kendall Vallancourt added seven kills each, while Priscilla Irizarry collected 20 assists, 22 digs and four kills. Alix Hooker registered 16 digs for the Trojans.
Wingate used a 4-0 run to take a 9-4 lead in the opening set, with Stumpff contributing a kill and two aces in the spurt. Another 4-0 run made it 14-6, with Murach collecting a pair of kills. A pair of kills and an ace from Stumpff made it 21-12, while two Murach kills made it 24-17. A Stumpff kill finished the set. The Bulldogs hit .333 in the opening frame, with 15 kills and just three errors.
A pair of Gillespie kills gave Anderson a 5-3 lead in set two, but a Bludau kill and Trojan error gave the Bulldogs an 8-7 lead. A Vallancourt kill gave Anderson a 12-11 advantage, but two Murach kills and a Saehler kill gave Wingate a 14-12 lead. The 'Dogs used a 4-0 run to take a 20-14 advantage. Stumpff had a kill and a block in the flurry. A Vallancourt kill cut the lead to four at 21-17, but a Potter kill and Anderson error made it 23-17. A Murach kill made it 24-18, while another Murach kill capped the second frame.
Wingate used an 8-1 run to take a 13-7 lead in the third set. Stumpff had two kills and a block, while Potter added a kill and three blocks. Two Saehler kills made it 17-11, but back-to-back Irizarry kills cut the lead to three at 20-17. A Potter kill and Anderson error put the 'Dogs on top by five. Irizarry answered with another kill, but the 'Dogs responded with three straight points. Potter and Cooke started the flurry with kills, while the senior Potter slammed home the kill on championship point.
The Bulldogs hit .289 for the match, with 52 kills and 13 errors in 135 attacks. Anderson had 32 kills and 17 errors in 130 attacks, hitting .115. Stumpff had all three of Wingate's aces, while Potter's four blocks led the Bulldogs.
Wingate earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with Sunday's win. The Bulldogs will learn their postseason future Sunday night at 10 p.m. when the bracket is revealed live on NCAA.com.
Alison Cooke, Wingate (MVP)
Shelly Stumpff, Wingate
Abby Saehler, Wingate
Priscilla Irizarry, Anderson
Alix Hooker, Anderson
Jenna Wilson, Carson-Newman
Haley Rhyne, Lenoir-Rhyne