CARROLLTON, Ga. - The West Georgia Wolves nearly completed a comeback for the ages Sunday afternoon in Pensacola, Florida, but the Wolves fell just short in a bid for the 2019 GSC Volleyball Championship with a 3-2 loss to the West Florida Argonauts.
The Wolves, the third seed in this year's tournament, won the opening set, then dropped two sets to the Argos before forcing a fifth set with a 25-15 win in the fourth. Tierra White and Kaylyn Buchanan were stellar in the tournament finale, with White dropping in 18 kills and Buchanan becoming the first 30-dig club member at UWG since 2013.
In the first set, the Wolves played as a frontrunner for the bulk of the set with Tierra White and McKenna Wharton leading the way with five kills each. Kaylyn Buchanan and Emilee Harris ran the back line with eight and six digs, respectively, and Madi Fleming had 10 assists and two service aces.
The Wolves opened the first set with points on back-to-back swings before the Wolves began to score in the service game. On back-to-back points, a West Florida return from a UWG serve came back over the net, allowing freshman Carrington Terrell to put down an easy point to give West Georgia an early 6-4 lead. Senior McKenna Wharton was on fire in the first 10 points for UWG, as the Memphis native had three kills in that span.
West Florida fought back to tie the set at 10-10 before Tierra White made a grand entrance with three-straight kills to give the Wolves a 13-10 lead and force a West Florida timeout. The West Georgia run continued, as the Wolves took a 15-11 lead before the Argos fought their way back into contention with three consecutive points. UWF won the race to 20, but West Georgia went on a 6-2 run to close out the set at 25-22.
In the second set, West Florida used a strong block early to take a quick lead, then opened up the offense to the tune of 15 kills out of their first 23 points. West Georgia had seven kills and six attack errors in the frame as the Argos tied things up with the victory.
West Florida came out strong at the net in their first four points of the second set, delivering on two blocks in that span to take an early 4-1 lead. The Argos continued to push, building a 10-2 lead before the Wolves were able to mount a comeback. West Georgia cut the UWF lead to 11-5 before the Argos scored three of the next five points for a 14-7 lead midway through the set. The Argos continued that run, taking a 25-12 victory to tie the match at 1-1 heading to the third set.
In the third set, West Florida continued the momentum from the second set, building a quick 4-0 lead, then extended that to 14-2 with nine kills in the first 14 points of the set. The Wolves struggled against UWF middle Veresia Yon, who had 10 blocks through the first three sets as the Argos took a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-12 victory. White had five kills in the set, picking up double-digit kills for the 25th time in 33 matches this season, ending the set with 13 kills.
West Georgia got back on track in the early part of the fourth set, as Tierra White had a pair of kills in the first five points to lead the Wolves to an early 7-4 lead. In that time, Buchanan picked up her 20th dig of the match, the fourth time in the past six matches that she has had 20 digs, and she has had at least 20 digs in each match at the GSC Volleyball Championship. The Wolves continued to turn the tables on the previous set, as West Georgia built a 13-5 lead with seven kills in the first 13 points from four different players.
The Wolves pressed their collective foot to the floor in the fourth set, racing to a 19-10 lead, with the 19th point coming via Madi Fleming's fourth service ace of the match. West Georgia never looked back in the set as Emilee Harris delivered on back-to-back kills for the final two points to give the Wolves a 25-15 win and send the championship to a deciding fifth set.
In the fifth set, the two teams battled back-and-forth over the first 10 points, with the set tied at 5-5. West Florida followed that with a 5-1 run, taking a 10-6 lead and forcing Moseley to take a timeout. During that span of points, Buchanan became the first UWG player since October 19, 2013 to join the 30-dig club. The Argos built their lead to 14-8 before the Wolves came back with three consecutive points, but UWF finished off the match with a kill from Jordyn Poppen to take the championship.
West Georgia will await the decision of the NCAA Selection Committee to determine if the Wolves will receive an at-large bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The Wolves finish the tournament with a 21-12 record overall on the year, with all matches as region matches. West Georgia was ranked ninth in the final region poll of the regular season this past week. West Georgia would likely need to jump two spots in the poll to reach the tournament, as the SIAC will receive an automatic bid (Spring Hill) despite no ranked teams from that conference. In eighth place in that poll was Palm Beach Atlantic and in seventh was Alabama Huntsville, a team that UWG beat on Saturday to advance to the GSC Finals.
The selection show is set for 7:30 p.m. on Monday evening and can be found on www.ncaasports.com.