In Key Early-Season SAC Volleyball Showdown, Wingate Sweeps Top Rival Lenoir-Rhyne

Staff Writer: Cody Kelley

The No. 24-ranked Wingate volleyball team hosted conference rival Lenoir-Rhyne on Sep. 20, winning the match in commanding fashion. The Bulldogs handed the Bears their first South Atlantic Conference loss of the season, sweeping them in a 3-0 win at Cuddy Arena.

The team won each set by scores of 25-22, 25-17 and 25-17. With the win, Wingate moved to 14-1 overall and 5-0 in the SAC. Lenoir-Rhyne fell to 8-4 and 4-1 in league play with the loss.

“This was a really big win for us,” Wingate head coach Shelton Collier said. “We’re really happy and we’re really proud that we played well enough to get an important win tonight. We had a lot
of players step up and play well.”

Several Bulldogs players contributed to the win. Graduate-student outside hitter MollyLambillotte, senior outside hitter Emma Ahrens and junior Lorna Stacherski had 10 kills each. Shannon Kasprak, a graduate-student setter, tallied 36 assists, 16 digs, three kills, three blocks and two aces. Freshman middle blocker Emily Johnson also compiled six kills and six blocks.

The beginning of the match was certainly the most influential. After battling back and forth for the lead, Wingate called a timeout with Lenoir-Rhyne leading 16-15. Although this seemed insignificant at the time, it turned the tide for the rest of the match.

Once play resumed, the Bulldogs went on a 10-6 run to win the first set. Wingate never trailed the rest of the match. “Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Collier said. “So, once we got some momentum, then our team started playing better. We had to play all the way to the end because they have a lot of good
players. We have good players too, but so do they. So, we were happy that we had the momentum.”

“I think it’s an emotional battle as well,” Kasprak said. “After that first set, we weathered the storm of the emotional battle and then kept playing our game, staying together and playing for one another.”

As for the impact of this victory, it was a crucial game on several fronts. It was significant from a historical standpoint, as Wingate lost to Lenoir-Rhyne 3-1 in the Southeast Regional semifinals in 2021, ending its season. This game was vital to both teams in terms of standings. Both teams were tied for first in the Piedmont Division going into the game last night.

However, with the win, Wingate gained sole possession of the top spot. “If we would’ve lost at home to Lenoir-Rhyne, it would’ve been a costly loss,” Collier said. “So, for us to win, it’s gratifying but you also have to win on your home court. We have some work to do this weekend, but it was really good for us to play well this week so that we’re confident for the weekend.”

“I think our confidence is going to keep building because we’re going to keep grinding and pushing in practice and every other match this season,” Kasprak said.

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