WINGATE, N.C. — Flagler erased a 2-0 deficit, winning the final three sets against top-seeded Wingate to capture its second NCAA Southeast region title in three years. The Saints won by scores of 26-28, 21-25, 27-25, 25-23 and 15-13 to improve to 31-6 overall. Wingate goes down for the first time this season, ending with an overall record of 32-1.
Sophomore right-side hitter Sophie Meyer had 18 kills to go along with nine digs to lead the Flagler attack. Junior outside hitter Dianna Craine and sophomore outside hitter Emilee Taylor added 14 kills each, while Craine also contributed 13 digs. Senior setter Olivia Snipes had 52 assists and 21 digs, while junior libero Casey Gnann piled up 31 digs.
The first set was tightly contested throughout; with nine ties and four lead changes. Flagler led early in the set, while a Craine kill gave the Saints a 23-19 lead. A Hilton kill, followed by an ace from sophomore outside hitter Rianne Lang trimmed the lead to two at 23-21. Two consecutive Flagler errors tied it, but a Wingate error put the Saints on top 24-23.
The Bulldogs fended off another set point, while a Murach kill put Wingate on top 26-25. Meyer tied it at 26 with a kill, but Murach answered with another kill to put the ‘Dogs back on top. Wingate claimed the opening set on a Flagler error.
The Bulldogs used a 7-3 run to take an 18-12 lead in the second set. Krauser had two kills and a block in the spurt. A Potter kill gave Wingate a 21-14 advantage. Flagler fought back, cutting the lead to three at 21-18 on a block from Meyer. Kills from Potter and Murach pushed the lead to five at 23-18, while a block from Potter and Murach made it 24-18. Hilton finished off the second set with a kill to give Wingate a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Bulldogs controlled the third set early, building a 20-13 lead on kills from McGowan and Potter. Flagler responded, scoring five of the next six points to make it 21-18 on a block from Meyer. A pair of Potter kills pushed the Wingate lead to four at 23-19.
The Saints scored the next four points to tie the set, capped by a block from Taylor and an ace from junior middle blocker Rachel Stacy. Krauser answered with a kill to give Wingate a 24-23 lead, and the ‘Dogs would serve for the match. Taylor answered with a kill, but another Krauser kill gave Wingate a second chance to finish the match. Taylor answered with another kill, while a Craine kill gave Flagler a 26-25 lead. Junior middle blocker Crystal Niederriter finished the third frame with a kill.
Wingate once again led throughout a majority of the fourth set, getting back-to-back McGowan kills to take a 20-16 lead. A pair of Stacy kills, followed by two consecutive Meyer kills helped Flagler take a 21-20 lead. Hilton tied it at 22 with a kill, but back-to-back Wingate errors put the Saints on top 24-22. A Flagler error trimmed the lead to one, but Meyer answered with a kill to send the match to a fifth set.
After a Wingate error gave Flagler a 1-0 lead, the ‘Dogs scored seven straight points to take a six-point lead. McGowan started it with a kill, while Hilton added a pair of kills in the flurry. Flagler had the answer, scoring the next six points to tie it at seven. Craine started it with a kill, while Taylor added two kills and a block in the spurt. A Niederriter kill, followed by a block from Taylor and Niederriter gave the Saints an 11-9 lead.
A Murach kill and Flagler error tied it at 11, while McGowan followed with a kill to give the ‘Dogs a one-point lead. Another Niederriter kill, followed by a Taylor kill put Flagler on top 13-12. Craine followed with a kill to put the Saints on top 14-12. The Bulldogs fended off one match point with a McGowan kill, but a Wingate error finished the match.
Flagler had 66 kills and 27 errors in 190 attacks, hitting .205 for the match. Wingate had 74 kills and 30 errors for a hitting percentage of .201. Stacy led the Saints with five blocks, while Potter’s seven and Murach’s six led Wingate.