In one of its best all-around performances of the season, Grand Valley State swept Wingate in the NCAA quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky. The Lakers won the match 25-17, 25-21, 25-21 to move on to Friday's semifinals. GVSU did not trail against the Bulldogs at any point during the contest.
With the victory, Grand Valley State improves to 27-5 snapping Wingate's nine-match win streak; the Bulldogs' season ends with a 34-3 record.
GVSU improves its all-time NCAA Tournament record to 37-13 in 15 total appearances. The Lakers are now 8-7 in the quarterfinal round. Grand Valley State advances to its sixth NCAA semifinal, also making the trip in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2008.
Wingate, the champion of the Southeast Region, is the owner of the highest winning percentage in Division II since 2007 with an outstanding .939 mark. Grand Valley State was able to corral the potent Bulldog offense. Wingate entered the quarterfinals with a .283 team hitting percentage -- on Thursday, the Bulldogs hit just .073 during the match, collecting 33 kills and 23 errors.
Grand Valley State's defense was superb, owning edges in digs (72-67) and team blocks (11-4), in addition to holding Wingate to its lowest hitting percentage of the year, by far. The Bulldogs' previous low attack percentage was .150.
The Lakers scored three early points in set one to take a 5-2 advantage. Then, senior Kourtney Wolters and junior Kaleigh Lound put down kills to bring the score to 5-2. GVSU would lead by at least two points for the remainder of the set, as the Laker offense clicked from the opening point. In set one, the Lakers hit .220 with 14 kills, while holding Wingate to just a .050 percentage (nine kills, seven errors).
With the score 10-8 in the Lakers' favor, senior Ally Simmons notched a kill and Kourtney Wolters added a solo rejection to up the score to 12-8. Senior Abby Aiken put down all four of her kills late in the frame (points 19, 20, 22 and 23), not allowing the Bulldogs to get back into the set.
In set two, Grand Valley State turned an 8-7 advantage into a 13-7 cushion, which started with a combined block between Simmons and Aiken and finished with an Aiken service ace. The Lakers looked to be in complete control when Aiken recorded four consecutive GVSU points to push ahead to a 21-15 advantage.
From there, however, Wingate fought back. The Bulldogs scored the next six points of the set to work their way back into a 21-21 tie. Aiken broke the 6-0 run with another kill and Kourtney Wolters followed with a kill and a big solo block to up the lead to 24-21. Junior Betsy Ronda tallied a kill on the next point to win the set, 25-21.
GVSU got off to another fast start in set three. The Lakers used a 5-0 run to open a 7-2 lead, which included kills from both Kaitlyn Wolters (two putaways) and Kourtney Wolters, a combined block from Lound and Ronda, and the first collegiate service ace for freshman Katie Olson.
The Lakers maintained a decent lead and were ahead 17-13 before Wingate battled back to tie the score at 17-17. At that point, GVSU took off. After a Bulldog service error, Aiken nabbed a kill and senior libero Christina Canepa served an ace. A kill from freshman Sydney Doby made the score, 21-17.
Grand Valley State's final three points came on combined blocks. Doby and Kourtney Wolters notched the first rejection, Doby and Ronda combined for the second while Lound and Ronda finished the match with a big block to seal the victory.
Aiken finished with a match-high 13 kills, while adding 13 digs for her 11th double-double of the year. She served up two of the Lakers' six aces, while Olson also notched a pair of aces.
Ronda supplied nine kills, nine digs and four block assists. Kaitlyn Wolters delivered 29 assists, 16 digs and seven kills (without an error) for a .538 hitting percentage. It was her 16th double-double this season. Kourtney Wolters provided a season-best six kills, while adding six digs and four blocks. Three of her four rejections were solo blocks.
Canepa picked up 18 digs, while Lound and Simmons each recorded three blocks.