Wheeling Advances to Regional Championship
WHEELING — Day two of the NCAA Atlantic Regional Tournament saw the top four teams from the Atlantic Region battle it out in the semifinal round. The Wheeling University Volleyball team (29-5, 15-1) took on No. 4 Edinboro and were able to pull off a 3-1 win to advance to the Atlantic Region Championship game.
After getting off to a slow start on day one, the exact opposite happened in the first set of this game. The Cardinals got off to a 4-2 lead at the start of the set and separated themselves with a 6-2 run that took the score to 13-7 halfway through the set. Freshman Mady Winters started things with a kill, and four straight attack errors from Edinboro led to the separation. Wheeling continued to build their lead over the course of the first set and brought the score to 21-17 late in the set. Wheeling would close things out with a 4-2 run that ended the set 25-19 and gave Wheeling a 1-0 lead in the match. The hitters were on fire throughout the first set and posted a .419 hitting percentage in the set and used that to their advantage.
As the game moved to the second set, Wheeling was once again out to a hot start, and once again scored 12 of the first 17 points of the set and were once again out to a 12-5 lead. Senior Kayla Bekier got going in that second set, recording three kills during the run. Wheeling’s hitters were on fire, hitting .406 in the set and that showed as they continued to build on their lead to 24-14.
With the set on the line, senior Kayla Bekier came through with the kill that speaker the set and gave Wheeling a 2-0 lead in the match. Wheeling was looking to close out the sweep, but Edinboro had other ideas. They bounced back in set three and picked up a 25-19 set win that got the momentum back on the Fighting Scots side.
As the game moved into the fourth set, it was a big moment for both teams. For Wheeling, they were trying to end the match there and head into the championship game with confidence. However, Edinboro was trying to stay alive and push the fame to a win-or-die fifth set. The fans in the Alma Grace McDonough Center would get their money’s worth as the team’s battled to a 24-24 score and a win by two scenario. The team’s traded the first two points of the extra period before Raegan Rosi slammed down a kill to put Wheeling ahead 26-25 with the game on the line, the final rally went back and forth, but an attack error by Edinboro ended the game and sent Wheeling to the Atlantic Regional Championship game.
There were a pair of seniors leading the offense as Kayla Bekier and Lexi Reinert led the offense with 15 kills in the win. For Reinert, it was a step closer to a milestone mark as she is just 10 kills away from reaching 1,000 in her career. Karly Niesen continued to be a strong setter for the team, racking up 52 assists in the game. She also played a big role on the defensive side of the ball, picking up 16 digs and finishing second on the team. Audrey Francis led the Cardinals’ defensive effort with 21 digs on the day.
Wheeling now moves on to the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championship game tomorrow at 7 pm. They will take on the #2 seed Gannon University inside the Alma Grace McDonough Center.