Pacers push bulldogs to the brink in NCAA tournament

WINGATE, NC – The University of South Carolina’s Aiken volleyball team gave Wingate all it could take but came just short in Friday night’s 3-1 loss.

The Pacers end their season 19-14 while the Bulldogs (30-2) advance to the second round on Saturday night.

Head coach Glenn Cox’s young team was led by Emily Lammers’ double-double with 16 kills and 11 digs. Sadie McKay hit a double-double with 11 kills and 16 digs, while Kaitlyn Rodriguez hit 11 kills and 10 digs for a double-double.

Mallory Barash hit a double-double with 40 assists and 12 digs and four kills. Anna Sommer added four kills while Brooke Wroten added two.

Defensively, Kari Mercer added 14 digs. She and Lammers shared the award for best team with two aces each. Lammers also blocked two attempts with a team high.

Trailing 4-1 in the first set, Lammers and Wroten combined a block. Two plays later, Izabella De Lima beat the Bulldogs and tied the set 4-4. 5-4 down, a mistake wiped out the score again. Holding Lammer’s serve, Sommer hit a kill for the team’s first lead home. Rodriguez and Sommer notched back-to-back kills before the dyad connected for a block. A Lammers kill increased the score to 10-5.

At 14:11, a serve error by the home team led to a four-point game. Two direct errors by the Bulldogs extended the lead to six, 17-11. After Wingate took a 21-20 lead, Barash found Rodriguez for a kill. The teams continued to trade points until it was 24-24. Cox’s team set up Lammers for murder. Barash led by a margin, betting Wroten on the thunderous kill and the 26-24 win.

At 12:12 in the second frame, Barash found Lammers for a kill. Two games later, another point from Lammers gave the visitors another point advantage. A 5-0 run by the Bulldogs in front 18-14. Wingate won the second set 25-17.

Cox’s group had an early lead in the third stanza. Lammers gave the Pacers a 2-1 lead. Rodriguez pulled off a kill for a 3-2 lead and a home team error made it 4-2. The teams continued to go back and forth until the set was tied at 10-10. Wingate slowly retired to the 25-18 win.

USC Aiken started the fourth set in attack. When the score was 2-2, Lammers triggered a run with a kill. Mercer confused the defense with an ace and an attacking mistake made it 5-2. With a 5-3 lead, Lammers again answered the bell with a kill before demolishing an ace for a 7-3 lead.

Down 13-12, Lammers had two kills in a row. The Pacers led 15-14, but the Bulldogs finished the match with an 11-2 run.

For the match, USC Aiken totaled 48 kills but had 29 errors to hit .106 while Wingate hit .280.