WINGATE, N.C. -- The third-seeded Pirates of Armstrong Atlantic State swept past the sixth-seeded Tusculum Pioneers in first-round action of the NCAA tournament on Friday afternoon in Cuddy Arena. The Pirates won by scores of 25-15, 26-24 and 25-22 to improve to 36-2 overall. Tusculum ends its season at 18-13. 

Senior outside hitter Brendyce Budd led the Armstrong attack with 13 kills and 16 digs, hitting .391 on the afternoon. Junior middle hitter Brittany Wolf added 12 kills with a .556 hitting percentage, while junior outside hitter Amanda Jones collected 10 kills.

Junior setter Ashley Seal handed out 41 assists to go along with 11 digs for the Pirates. 

The Pioneers had four players with at least seven kills. Junior outside hitter Sam Underwood had eight kills, six digs and four blocks to lead the Tusculum attack. Freshman outside hitter Brianna Anderson added eight kills with a .400 hitting percentage for the Pioneers.

Freshman setter Georgia Paturalski handed out 15 assists, while sophomore libero Caitlyn Dean piled up 16 digs to lead Tusculum. 

The Pirates were in control throughout the opening set, hitting .407 while holding Tusculum to .030. A kill and a block from Wolf put Armstrong on top 11-4. The Pioneers trimmed the lead to four on an ace from Price and kill from freshman middle blocker Taylor Boone. Armstrong scored the next four points to push the lead back to eight. A Budd kill and Tusculum ace capped the flurry. The Pioneers would get no closer than seven the rest of the way. Senior libero Casey Howett finished the opening frame with an ace. 

A pair of blocks from junior middle hitter Leia Pittman gave the Pirates a 17-12 lead in the second set. Tusculum used a 6-1 run to cut the lead to two at 21-19 on a kill from Price. A Pittman kill put Armstrong on top 24-21. The Pioneers responded with three consecutive points to even the set at 24, taking advantage of three Armstrong errors. The Pirates responded with the final two points of the frame, capping the set on a kill from Budd. 

Kills from Underwood and sophomore middle blocker Kassie Voelker propelled the Pioneers to a 20-16 lead in the third set. A Wolf kill helped Armstrong trim the lead to two, but Anderson answered with a kill for Tusculum to make it 21-18. The Pirates scored four of the next five points to tie it at 22. Jones had two kills in the key spurt for Armstrong. The Pirates would go on to score the final three points of the set to claim the match, taking advantage of three consecutive Tusculum errors. 

Armstrong hit .287 on the afternoon, with 47 kills and 14 errors in 115 attacks. The Pioneers had 37 kills and 18 errors in 115 attacks, hitting .165 for the match.