Staff Writer: Jarren Cottingham
The Wingate Bulldogs Volleyball Team comes into the 2019 season ranked number one in the South Atlantic Conference after an impressive 32-2 record, while also winning 19 of their 20 games in conference played last season. The Bulldogs also rank among the top 25 programs in all of NCAA.
Wingate began their season on September 6 with a pair of matches against North Greenville and Belmont Abbey at Queens University in Charlotte, NC.
The Bulldogs have six new freshmen members, including former high school standout, Maggie Mullen.
Mullen attended Hickory Ridge High School in Harrisburg, NC and led the Ragin’ Bulls to multiple conference titles and long playoff runs. She has wasted no time in getting acquainted with her new team.
“Fitting in with my new teammates was really easy because I knew them beforehand and they are all so welcoming and cool,” Mullen said.
Expectations are certainly high for the exciting freshman this upcoming season.
“Maggie is a beast. Right from day one of pre-season, she was pushing on defense and being really vocal on the court,” said senior Lynnlee Mather.
“Her personality fits right in and it’s so awesome for a freshman, like Maggie, to be all in. She definitely is a great addition to our team.”
Mather is returning from a season-ending knee injury that she suffered last year. Doctors cleared her to play which allowed her to suit up for the game against North Greenville University on September 6.
Mather played a huge role in the Bulldogs’ success her first two years as she totaled 266 kills and led the team with 101 blocks in 2016.
“Recovering from my injury has been a pretty lengthy process. The cool thing is that even on my bad days, I could tell I was getting better and stronger,” said Mather.
“I’ve always had friends, coaches, and family reminding me of how much I have been improving. Having this type of constant encouragement is so helpful.”
Mather will look to be a vital piece to her team as the Bulldogs head into what looks to be another successful season.
Wingate has ranked among the best teams in the SAC for many years and Mullen says some of the credit should go to the team’s leadership.
“Not only the seniors, but everyone shows leadership on and off the court. We do a good job of holding each other accountable as well as ourselves,” said Mullen.
The Bulldogs have four returning seniors, including the SAC pre-season all-conference honoree Rachel Alles.
Wingate’s head coach, Shelton Collier, is entering his 17th season. He has won SAC coach of the year 11 times and has tallied over 1,000 wins. This makes him only the ninth coach in NCAA women’s volleyball history to reach that milestone.
“I love playing for Coach Collier. He really pushes you to play to your full potential and cares about us all which is awesome,” sophomore Shannon Kasprak said.
Collier came to Wingate in the summer of 2002 and has had only one losing season with the Bulldogs in his seventeen years with the program.
He looks to continue his winning ways with his team this upcoming season.