ANDERSON, S.C. – Paced by tournament MVP Brooke Redmond's 14 kills, third-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne rallied from a one-set deficit to win its first-ever South Atlantic Conference Volleyball Championship by upsetting top-seeded and nine-time defending tournament champion Wingate, 3-1 (17-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-23) in the championship tilt Sunday afternoon at the Abney Athletic Center.
Lenoir-Rhyne (23-7), the third seed, was making an appearance in the conference tournament championship for the first time since 2006 and earned the SAC's automatic bid to next week's NCAA Southeast Regional Tournament, while the Bulldogs will learn their postseason fate during Monday's NCAA Selection Show, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Bulldogs slipped to 28-4 on the season after claiming its 10th consecutive SAC regular-season title last week.
Redmond added 17 digs for a double-double, while Emile Steele and Ashley Wells tallied nine kills apiece. Senior setter Briana Gottberg also notched a double-double with 27 assists and 20 digs, with senior outside hitter Morgan Bunker and Bailey Cloninger recording 22 digs apiece.
Wingate's Katie Bludau led all players with 17 kills, while SAC Player of the Year, Shelly Stumpff posted a double-double with 16 kills and 22 digs. Honorable Mention all-conference selection, Oakley Attaway recorded 13 kills, with senior Iris Brewer chipping in 42 kills and 27 digs. Second-Team All-SAC libero Kimberly Hovey tallied 17 digs, with Kori Adams and Rachel Truslow posting 15 digs and 11 digs, respectively.
With Gottberg serving, the Bears posted the first three points of the opening set and opened a 4-1 advantage, before Wingate evened the score for the first of four times on a kill by Brewer and took its first lead, at 10-9, on a kill by Stumpff. The Bulldogs built a 14-10 lead before Lenoir-Rhyne called a timeout. But the pause did not slow the regular-season champions, as WU pushed out to a 19-11 advantage behind Stumpff's six kills. The Bears battled back within 23-17, but Wingate went on to take the eight-point win.
Wingate snapped a 3-3 deadlock in the second set with three unanswered points before Lenoir-Rhyne countered with three of its own to knot the score at six apiece, with the Bulldogs recapturing a brief 7-6 edge on a kill from Bludau. With the score even at 8-8, Anna Holmquist sparked a 3-0 surge, only to see L-R climb back with eight consecutive points and take a 16-11 edge, with Bunker providing the serves. Leading 18-12, the Bears held off Wingate for the three-point victory.
Lenoir-Rhyne carried the momentum over to the third frame by scoring the first three points en route to taking a 7-1 lead. The Bears built the advantage to double-digits, at 16-6. Wingate answered with three straight points as part of a 5-1 run to get within six, but L-R quickly responded to push back ahead, 19-11, with the Bulldogs rallying again behind four straight points and got within 19-15. The two teams then traded three-point surges, before L-R closed the set with three of the final five points to earn the win.
The Bears rallied from an early 5-3 deficit with six straight points to take a 9-5 advantage, and held the lead with Wingate challenging by cutting the L-R advantage to two on eight occasions before taking a 21-20 advantage on back-to-back kills by Attaway and a miscue by L-R. But the Bears responded with three straight to claim a 23- 21 lead on Redmond's kill, while the tourney MVP closed the set with back-to-back kills.
2015 South Atlantic Conference All-Tournament Team
Brooke Redmond, Lenoir-Rhyne (MVP)
Ashley Wells, Lenoir-Rhyne
Morgan Bunker, Lenoir-Rhyne
Shelly Stumpff, Wingate
Kimberly Hovey, Wingate
Maddie Borch, Carson-Newman
Abbie Cash, Lincoln Memorial