LYNCHBURG, Va. -- The Winthrop volleyball team, five-time defending Big South champions, defeated UNC Asheville by the scores of 30-18, 30-17, 29-31, 30-21 in the semifinals of the conference tournament Friday at the Vines Center.
The second-seeded Eagles improved to 20-10 on the year and advanced to the tournament's final match, while the sixth-seeded Bulldogs finished their season 12-22.
In the championship match, the Eagles will take on the winner of the match between first-seeded Liberty and fourth-seeded Coastal Carolina.
The Eagle offense was anchored by right-side hitter Kelley Taylor, who collected 23 kills and hit .395.
"Kelley Taylor really emerged as a leader and a go-to player for us finding a way to terminate against different blocks and different defenses," said Winthrop coach Sally Polhamus.
Reigning Big South Player of the Year, middle hitter Shannon Sitzmann, also had a solid offensive match as she recorded 20 kills hitting .429. Outside hitters Kellie Sellers, with 18, and Tara Toepke, with 11, were the other two Eagles in double figures for kills.
"We want our offense to be diverse and that's where we are at," said Polhamus. "We had three hitters highlighted today, but, overall, we are very diverse in our offense."
Toepke was also a weapon from the service line as she fired five aces to lead all players.
"This weekend, Tara really stepped up from the service line, passing and offensively," said Polhamus.
Setter Kelsey Hall had a solid match controlling the hitters posting 61 assists with only one setting error.
"Kelsey Hall has done an incredible job this weekend pulling out the hard sets and finding the hitter that's on and giving them a ball to be successful at," said Polhamus. "Overall, she really set a great match for us."
On the back row, the Eagles had double-digit performances from Toepke, who picked up her eighth double-double of the year with 17, Hall, with her 13th double-double and 13 digs, and libero Pohai Nu'uhiwa, with 13.
"Pohai has really become the quarterback of our defense. She's a constant communicator and works hard on the court," said Polhamus. "The intangibles that she has, give our team what pushes us forward to a victory."
The Eagles started strong jumping on top of UNC Asheville opening a quick 12-3 lead in game one and cruised to capture a 30-18 win.
In game two, Winthrop kept up with the intense play and, after trading points until 8-8, opened a safe 10-point margin at 24-14 and closed out the frame 30-17 with a solid .410 team hitting average.
The Eagles started slow in game three and saw the Bulldogs open a 7-2 lead. Polhamus then called a timeout and the Eagles quickly got six straight points to get right back in the game. The two teams exchanged points until 29-29 when UNC Asheville was able to take two points in a row winning the game 31-29.
Both teams started game four playing in intensive form and exchanged points until 15-15. The Eagles then collected five straight points and marched to a 30-21 win to close out the match.
The championship match will be played on Saturday at 4 p.m.