WINGATE, N.C. – Top-seeded and 14th-ranked Wingate rallied back after dropping the first set, defeating the eight-seeded Lees-McRae 3-1 in quarterfinal action of the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regional tournament Friday night in Cuddy Arena. The Bulldogs won by scores of 23-25, 25-19, 25-19 and 25-14 to improve to 31-0 overall, moving on to the NCAA regional semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.
Lees-McRae ended its season at 27-9 overall.
Sophomore outside hitter Cory McGowan had 15 kills, nine digs and three blocks to lead the Wingate attack. Junior middle blocker Grace Krauser added nine kills with a .348 hitting percentage, while redshirt sophomore right-side hitter Anna Hilton had seven kills, six digs and six blocks. Senior setter Liz Willis had 34 assists and nine digs for the Bulldogs.
“We are proud that we earned the No. 1 seed and were able to host the regionals again this year,” head coach Shelton Collier said. “Lees-McRae obviously caused us some problems with its serving, so we can give credit to them. At the same time, our players know that we will need to play significantly better to win in the semifinals. We had enough to win, and we are all confident that we will play much better [Saturday].”
Senior outside hitter Megan Epperson piled up a match-high 18 kills to go along with six digs to lead the Lees-McRae attack. Junior outside hitter Taylor Clendenin added nine kills for the Bobcats. Junior setter Megan Mitchell handed out 37 assists, while freshman libero Sariah Suryadevara had 27 digs and seven aces.
The first set was tight throughout, with 11 ties and six lead changes. Neither team led by more than three points. The Bobcats used kills from Epperson and Clendenin to take a 16-13 advantage. The Bobcats scored five consecutive points to take a 24-21 lead. Back-to-back Wingate errors started the spurt, while Suryadevara capped it with consecutive aces. A McGowan kill, followed by Hilton block trimmed the lead to one at 24-23 before Lees-McRae went back to Epperson, who capped the opening frame with a kill.
Kills from Krauser and Willis helped the Bulldogs take a 10-7 lead in the second set. A Wingate error trimmed the lead to two, but the ‘Dogs responded with three consecutive points, taking a five-point lead on a block from McGowan. Wingate pushed the lead back to three at 18-15 on a Krauser kill. The Bulldogs scored four consecutive to take a commanding 22-16 advantage, taking advantage of three Lees-McRae errors in the spurt. A Bobcat error made it 24-19, before Hilton capped the second set with a kill.
A pair of McGowan kills, along with a Krauser kill capped a 3-0 run that put Wingate on top 13-8 early in the third set. Back-to-back McGowan kills, along with a kill from freshman defensive specialist Stephanie Tassone pushed the lead to seven at 17-10. The Bobcats cut it to five, but kills from Krauser and Willis, along with an LMC error made it 21-13 and Wingate went on to finish out the third.
Kills from McGowan and freshman middle blocker Kelsey Handel gave Wingate a 12-7 lead in the fourth set. Lees-McRae used an Epperson kill to make it 14-9. The ‘Dogs scored the next four points to push the lead to eight. McGowan started it with a kill, while Hilton and Handel capped it with a block. The lead would not go below seven the rest of the way.
Wingate hit .250 on the night, with 44 kills and 16 errors in 112 attacks, while Lees-McRae hit .102, with 44 kills and 31 errors in 128 attacks.