Rock Hill, S.C. - The Gardner-Webb volleyball team battled back from a tough first set 25-15 set loss to push the Winthrop Lady Eagles to the limit in set two and three, before falling to the Lady Eagles 3-0 in straight sets (25-15, 25-22, 25-22) in the Winthrop Coliseum on Saturday afternoon in Rock Hill, S.C.
The loss is the third straight for GWU, who falls to 9-18 overall and 4-8 in the Big South. The win, which was Winthrop's fifth straight, pushes the Lady Eagles to 18-7 overall and 11-2 in conference play on the year.
Looking to complete the regular season series sweep of the Winthrop Lady Eagles and snap their losing streak at two, the Runnin' Bulldogs posted only a .160 attack percentage as team, compared to Winthrop's .264 team attack percentage, and committed 22 total errors in the three set loss.
The Runnin' Bulldogs got off to a slow start to start the match, seeing a 2-2 tie quickly erased by a 6-2 run by the Winthrop Lady Eagles, giving the home team an 8-4 lead and forcing an early GWU timeout.
Gardner-Webb cut the Winthrop lead to two at 11-9 on a Tyler Cockrell kill, however, that would be as close as the Runnin' Bulldogs would get in the opening set, as Winthrop outscored GWU 14-6 for the remainder of the game to come away with the 25-15 set win.
The second set started off much like the first, as the two teams went back-and-forth until back-to-back Gardner-Webb errors allowed the Lady Eagles to take an early three point lead at 6-3.
The errors only added to the Lady Eagles' momentum, as the home team outscored the Runnin' Bulldogs 5-3 over the next eight possessions to pull out to an 11-6 lead and force a GWU timeout.
After Winthrop scored right out of the timeout to push their lead to six at 12-6, the Runnin' Bulldogs took advantage of four Winthrop errors and kills from Cockrell, Emily Holte, Lauren Evans and Laura Wilcox to cut the Winthrop lead to one at 15-14.
Winthrop was able to hold on to a slight lead over Gardner-Webb, as the two teams then traded points back-and-forth over the next nine rallies to put the score at 20-18 in favor of the Lady Eagles.
Two straight errors by Gardner-Webb pushed Winthrop in front by four at 22-18, forcing head coach Leo Sayles to call his second timeout of the set.
However, another GWU error stopped the run and allowed Winthrop to score the final three points of the frame to escape with the 25-22 set win and a 2-0 match lead.
GWU's Evans got the Runnin' Bulldogs off to a solid start in set three, posting two kills over the first three points to give the visitors an early 2-1 lead. However, a 6-2 run by the Lady Eagles, which included three Gardner-Webb errors, push Winthrop back in front by two at 7-5.
Down two points at 8-6, GWU was able to post back-to-back points by way of an Evans' kill and an Evan Moffitt service ace, tying the set up at 8-8.
Refusing to go away, Gardner-Webb stayed close to the Lady Eagles, cutting the lead to one at 11-10 and then overcoming a 3-0 run by Winthrop to battle back with a 5-0 run of their own, highlighted by kills from both Holte and Wilcox, to take a 17-15 lead and force Winthrop to call their first timeout of the set.
At home, Winthrop would not go away, as out of the timeout the Lady Eagles outscored Gardner-Webb 5-1 to retake the lead at 20-18 and force the Runnin' Bulldogs to call a timeout.
GWU ran off three straight points down the stretch to tie the score up at 22-22 on a Feldman service ace, however, just like in set two, the Lady Eagles finished the set out with three straight unanswered points to take their second straight 25-22 set win and the 3-0 match victory.
Evans posted a team-high 10 kills and 13 digs, while Feldman dished out 27 assists and tallied 12 digs in the three set loss.
Winthrop's Becca Toor totaled a match-high 12 kills on a .667 attack percentage, while setter Stephanie Palmer recorded 31 assists and six digs.
Gardner-Webb (9-18, 4-8 Big South) will return home to host the Liberty Lady Flames and the Radford Highlanders next weekend, as the Runnin' Bulldogs will wrap up their 2011 regular season slate at home in Paul Porter Arena. GWU will host Liberty on Friday night at 7 p.m. and will then turn around to take on the Highlanders at 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Winthrop (18-7, 11-2 Big South) will play their final match of the regular season next Friday night, as the Lady Eagles will host Presbyterian College at 7 p.m. in Rock Hill, S.C.