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Tusculum suffers heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Wingate in SAC volleyball thriller

Tusculum suffers heart-breaking 3-2 loss to Wingate in SAC volleyball thriller

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Wingate volleyball team rallied from a 20-15 deficit in the fourth set and fought off one match-point in the fifth to edge host Tusculum 3-2 in a South Atlantic Conference nail-biter at Pioneer Arena.

The Bulldogs (10-0, 5-0 SAC) remain undefeated on the season as they won the match by scores of 21-25, 25-16, 17-25, 25-22, 17-15.  The Pioneers (5-5, 3-3 SAC) slip back to .500 on the year while playing in their fifth 5-set contest of the season.

Wingate finished the match 70 kills with the duo of Phoebe Havenaar (23) and Katie Bludau (20) accounting for over half of them.  The Bulldogs also got 51 assists, 11 digs and eight blocks from setter Rachel Alles and a match-high 26 digs from Kori Adams.

Tusculum's Cassie Born accounted for 15 kills and 12 digs, while Mariah Lewis and Sabrina Schleuger added 11 kills apiece in the loss.  The Pioneers finished the night with 46 kills, 27 errors and 179 attacks for their .106 hitting percentage.  Setter Shannon Murphy tallied 36 assists and 16 digs, while Melissa Mazur (17), Alyssa Rojas (12) and Born all had double-figure digs.

Each team finished with 11 team blocks, while the Pioneers held a 9-1 advantage in service aces as Murphy, Schleuger and Mazur had two aces each.

Wingate, who hit .051 in the first set, bounced back to finish the night with a .195 average including .233 for the final four frames combined.

The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 9-4 lead in the opening set following a block from Havenaar.  Tusculum trimmed the deficit to 11-10 using a 6-2 run, including a kill and an ace from Laryssa Welch.  Wingate upped its lead to 14-11 after a TC hitting error, but the Pioneers tied the match at 15-15 thanks to a pair of WU hitting errors and kills from Schleuger and Lewis.  Wingate regained the lead at 16-15, but the Pioneers went on a 6-0 run which included five consecutive hitting errors by the Bulldogs as TC led 21-16.  After a Wingate timeout, the visitors cut the deficit back to 21-18 on a pair of kills from Anne Abernathy.  A Schleuger ace and a Murphy kill gave TC a 24-19 lead.  WU shook off a pair of set points, but a Tusculum block gave the Pioneers a 25-21 triumph in the opening frame.

In the second set, Wingate broke a 9-9 tie with a 4-1 run to lead 13-10.  The Bulldogs would maintain the lead for the rest of the frame before settling for a 25-16 win.  The Bulldogs hit .220 in the set, while limiting the Pioneers to a minus-.022 average.  Bludau contributed five kills, while the Bulldogs recorded five blocks in the second frame to tie the match at a set apiece.

The third set went back and forth early with six ties and five lead changes.  With Wingate leading 10-9 after a Rachel Alles kill, TC went on a 7-2 spurt to take a 16-12 lead on a Schleuger kill.  Wingate cut the TC lead to three at 16-13, but the Pioneers closed out the frame with a 9-4 run to win 25-17, including a Murphy ace on set-point, giving TC a 2-1 lead.

Three kills from Bludau paced the Bulldogs to an early 5-2 lead in the fourth set, but Tusculum scored the next five points, taking a 7-5 advantage on a Schleuger kill. Kills from Born and Lewis gave the Pioneers a 14-11 advantage, while an ace from Schleuger made it 19-14. A kill from Born made it 21-16 as the Pioneers looked to have the momentum.  But a Wingate kill and a TC attack error cut the Pioneer lead to three at 21-18.  Following a Tusculum timeout, Lewis recorded a kill to make the score 22-18. But the Bulldogs responded by scoring the last seven points of the set. Havenaar sparked the rally with two kills, while consecutive Bludau kills made it 23-22.  An ace from Alles and a Havenaar kill sent the match to a fifth set.

The momentum was on the side of the Bulldogs, opening the fifth set with an 8-3 run.  Wingate would lead by five two more times in the frame at 9-4 and 10-5 after an Oakley Attaway kill.  The Pioneers would not give up as TC chipped away at the deficit and cut the WU lead to one at 12-11 following back-to-back hitting errors by the Bulldogs.  Wingate lead 13-11, but three straight errors by the Bulldogs gave the Pioneers a 14-13 lead and one-point away from knocking off Wingate from the undefeated ranks.  But three kills down the stretch from Havenaar and a kills from Attaway on match point gave the Bulldogs a 17-15 win in the deciding frame.

Tusculum returns to action on Saturday when they host Queens University of Charlotte for a 2 p.m. SAC match at Pioneer Arena.

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