WHEELING, WVA – The Winston-Salem State University Rams’ (22-8) season came to an end when the team took a three-set loss to the Wheeling Jesuit Cardinals (34-4), Thursday in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament. Entering the tournament as the eighth-seeded team, the Rams struggled to get their offense going against the top-seeded host Cardinals as the team fell, 25-7, 25-10, and 25-11.
As a team, the Rams found points hard to come by against the tough Cardinals defense. The Rams finished the match with 20 total kills along with 20 attack errors for a .000 hitting percentage. Defensively, the Rams totaled 23 digs and four total blocks (two solo) in the match. WSSU junior outside hitter Teynia Shepherd led the way for the Rams with six kills in the match junior middle blocker Jocelyn Mills and sophomore outside hitter Jasmine Smith totaled four kills each as well. Junior setter Zipporah Foster totaled 11 assists while freshman libero Michelle Murray-Garcia added 11 digs.
After opening the match with a slow start, the Rams made an effort to get back into the match, but could not manage to rally in the loss. The WSSU troubles started early for the team as the team fell behind 1-7 in the opening set of the match. After pulling back to within five points of the Cardinals 5-10, things fell apart for the Rams as the team could manage just one kill for the remainder of the set. After a WJU attack error left the Rams trailing, 6-14, a kill by sophomore outside hitter Sydney Holland was all that the team could muster as the Rams allowed a 15-2 run by the Cardinals to take the 25-7 opening set loss.
Things looked better for the Rams in the second set, but the team soon struggled once again. After opening the set by allowing the Cardinals to take an 8-1 lead, the Rams were able to kick some things into gear as they pulled back to within six points when a Shepherd kill left the Rams trailing 3-9. After falling behind, 8-18, the Rams were outscored 7-2 to seal the 25-10 second set loss.
After falling behind with losses in the opening sets, the Rams showed some fight in the final set. Once again, the Rams ran into some early troubles when they fell behind 2-10. The team was able to build some brief momentum when Shepherd scored back-to-back kills for the Rams that left the team trailing, 5-12. An 8-3 WJU once again put the Rams into trouble as the team fell behind, 8-20. After trailing, 9-22, the Rams scored back-to-back points for the second time in the match after a WJU service error was followed by a Mills block. However, that was the last effort for the Rams as a Cardinal kill and back-to-back attack errors by the Rams ended the team’s season, 25-11.
"I congratulate Winston-Salem State on a great year. We were fortunate enough to start quick and hit a high percentage tonight," said Cardinals' head coach Christy Benner.