RICHMOND, VA – The Winston-Salem State Rams (16-14) pulled off the upset when the team took a five-set win over the Virginia Union Panthers (12-15) in the quarterfinal round of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Volleyball Championship Tournament. After taking a falling behind, 1-2, the Rams stormed back for back-to-back wins in the final two sets of match to claim the upset victory.
The Rams saved one of their best performances of the season for Tuesday's match. As a team, the Rams totaled 55 kills in the match while holding the Panthers to just 41 kills. WSSU sophomore middle blocker Alexis Gregson-Hammond led the way for the Rams with a career-high 17 kills in the match. Fellow outside hitter Danyale Berry added 10 kills while junior outside hitter Ytae Cobb returned from injury for nine kills and four total blocks (two solo).
Winston-Salem State took control of the match with a dominating opening set. The two teams got the match started in dramatic fashion, playing to a 12-12 tie before the Rams broke out for five unanswered points that included a service ace from freshman Myra Wallace. The effort left the Rams on top, 16-12. Virginia Union would come back to tie the match, 18-18, but the Rams had just the answer. The Rams went on a 6-1 run to take a 24-19 lead. Virginia Union added one more score before freshman Alexis Bynum sealed the set win with a kill that gave the Rams the 25-20 opening set win.
The Rams struggled in the second and third sets. Virginia Union took 25-19 and 25-17 wins in the second and third sets. The Rams struggled to start the second set, falling behind 2-8. The Rams would climb back into the set, 17-18 before allowing the Panthers to outscore them, 7-2 to close the set. The third set saw a bit more of the same as the team struggled early in the set. The Rams fell behind, 2-6 to start the set. The Rams would fight back as a kill from junior Miranda Taylor pulled the Rams to within a point 6-7. Later in the set, the Rams struggled behind by as many as 10 points, 10-20 before staging a late rally. However, in the end, the Rams ended the set with a 19-25 loss.
It was then that the Rams stormed back for dominating performances in the fourth and fifth sets to claim the win. The Rams jumped out early in the third set with a 10-4 lead. After allowing the Panthers to pull to within four points, 13-9, the Rams took control of the set for good with a four-point run that included a pair of Wallace service aces. From there, the Rams cruised to the 25-15 win and tied the match, 2-2 and sent the match into a fifth set.
There wasn't much room for drama for the Rams in the fifth set. The Rams took control of the set early. WSSU jumped out scoring the first three points of the final set to claim a three-point early lead. From there, the Rams kept their three-point cushion at 10-7 before they allowed three points to the Panthers to tie the set, 10-10. After a WSSU timeout, the Rams never looked back as they outscored the Panthers 5-1 to take the set and the match. The run included three kills from Gregson-Hammond.
With the win, the Rams improve to 16-14 overall and pull off the upset win after entering the tournament as the third seed from the CIAA Southern Division and defeating the second seed from the CIAA Northern Division. The team advances to the semifinal round of the 2018 CIAA Volleyball Championship Tournament in Salem, Virginia and will take on the top seeded Shaw Lady Bears, Friday. For more information on Rams volleyball, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143 or log on to www.WSSURams.com.