SAVANNAH, Ga. – Second-seeded Wingate swept fourth-seeded Tusculum on Saturday, winning a third-round match of the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. The Bulldogs won by scores of 25-14, 25-22 and 25-20 to improve to 32-2 overall. Tusculum ends its season at 24-8 overall.
Freshman outside hitter Shelly Stumpff had 13 kills and seven digs to lead the Wingate attack, piling up six kills in the final set. Junior right-side hitter Anna Hilton added eight kills and 19 digs, while senior middle blocker Grace Krauser had seven kills in 10 swings, hitting .700 while adding three blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Susie Murach had seven kills and six digs, while sophomore middle blocker Lexi Potter had seven kills and four blocks, hitting .353. Sophomore setter Alison Cooke piled up 35 assists, seven digs, four blocks and four kills, while sophomore libero Stephanie Tassone collected 10 digs.
“This is a very rewarding victory for so many reasons,” head coach Shelton Collier said. “The last time we earned the right to be in the [quarterfinals] we had an experienced team that expected to be there. This year, however, we had new players in important positions. We also had some key injuries and at times we were struggling with our level of play. In the championship match we had several very impressive offensive performances, and we were very sharp in following our game plan to defend Tusculum. We are excited about going to the [quarterfinals] this weekend.”
Megan Hasse led the Pioneers with eight kills and 11 digs. Kassie Voelker had seven kills with a .353 hitting percentage, while Sam Underwood contributed seven kills with a .333 hitting percentage. Danae Stauffer also had seven kills for the Pioneers, while Ashley Sarmiento handed out 16 assists. Caitlyn Dean had a match-high 26 digs.
Kills from Stumpff and Hilton, along with two Tusculum errors gave Wingate a 13-7 lead in the opening set. A Voelker ace and Wingate error trimmed it to three at 14-11. The Bulldogs answered with a 6-0 run to take a 20-11 lead. Hilton had two kills in the spurt, while Potter added a kill and a block. A Stumpff kill and Murach ace made it 24-14, while a TC error capped set one. Wingate hit .423 in the opening frame, with 14 kills and three errors in 26 attacks. Tusculum was held to eight kills and seven errors, hitting .038.
Kills from Stauffer and Sarmiento gave Tusculum a 13-12 lead in the second set. The Bulldog used a 5-1 run to take an 18-14 lead. Murach had two kills in the flurry, while Cooke capped it with back-to-back kills. Kills from Stauffer and Hasse tied the set at 21. Wingate answered with a 3-0 run to take a 24-21 advantage. Krauser started it with a kill, while a block from Hilton and potter gave Wingate set point. Hilton finished the set with a kill. The Bulldogs had 18 kills in the second frame, hitting .311.
The Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run to take an 11-5 lead in the third set. Stumpff had three kills, while Murach added a kill and an ace. Another 4-0 run made it 15-6. Stumpff and Krauser started the flurry with kills, then combined for a block to finish the set. Another block from Krauser and Stumpff made it 18-10. A pair of kills from Hasse helped Tusculum get back to within four at 24-20. Stumpff finished the match with a block.