Wheeling, WV — Our Saturday rewinds take place throughout the summer as we look back at some of the most exciting games of the 2021-22 season. After winning its ninth consecutive Mountain East Conference (MEC) championship, the Wheeling Volleyball team has earned the right to host the 2021 NCAA Division II Atlantic Volleyball Regional Championships. would host seven other teams from across the region, all vying for a spot at the national championships in Tampa, Florida. To get there, the Cardinals needed to win three in a row against some of the best in the region and after a first-round win, they met Edinboro in the semifinals. It would be one of the most exciting matchups of the tournament as the Cardinals and Fighting Scots vied for a chance to fight Gannon in the finals.
December 3, 2021: Wheeling 3, Edinboro 1
After the first round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament, the top seeds benefited, with three of the four advancing teams being the top seeds. The Wheeling University volleyball team took care of business in the first round, beating Fayetteville State 3-0, and seeking a rematch of the 2019 Atlantic Regional Championship game against Gannon. However, standing in their way was an Edinboro side coming off a 3-1 loss to Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) champions Clarion Golden Eagles, a team that led Wheeling to five sets more. early in the year.
Going into the first set, you could see it was going to be a home and away game as the teams traded the first seven points and Wheeling held a slight 4-3 lead. Consecutive kills of Lexi Smith and Mady Winters created a small split and Wheeling held a 7-5 lead on the first 12 points of the set. A kill by Winters sent Jenna Franks into the service box and she led her team on their first big run of the night, scoring the next four points and suddenly Wheeling found themselves in control with a 12-5 lead. The Cardinals increased their advantage to eight late in the set, leading 20-12, but Edinboro fought back on a 5-1 run that made it a 21-17 game. That’s as close as the Fighting Scots would get as Wheeling scored the next three points and won the set 25-19 and led 1-0 in the match.
It would be Franks set up in the server box to start the second set and she helped the Cardinals get off to a quick start, scoring the first two points. It was the Cardinals’ most dominant set of the night, and by the halfway point they were in control ahead 17-8. Edinboro went down seven points on a narrow 3-1 streak, but the Cardinals didn’t let the comeback last too long. The Cardinals went on a 6-2 run as they took advantage of Fighting Scot’s errors to lead 24-13 and won the set 25-14. The Cardinals now held a 2-0 lead in the game and were looking for their second sweep of the tournament with their sights set on the final.
The atmosphere inside the Alma Grace McDonough Center was electric and the play on the floor matched that intensity with Edinboro fighting for his life in the playoffs. The teams were trading the first 22 points of the set and at the halfway point were tied 11-11. Edinboro would get the first real advantage of the set, going on a 4-1 run that made it a 15-12 game. However, the Cardinals fought back and a few points later things stalled at 16-16 heading into the second half of the third set. However, the Fighting Scots would live to fight another set as they went on an 8-3 run to end the set and ended up taking set three 25-19. With the match at 2-1 in favor of Wheeling, the fourth set was upon them, and Wheeling was looking to close it out.
Edinboro would be the one to take the lead early in the set at 5-3 but, much like the other sets of the night up to that point, the Cardinals would bounce back. The lead went back and forth throughout the fourth set with neither team making a streak of more than four points in the set. Wheeling led 24-22 after a service error, but Edinboro came back with a kill and an offensive error from Wheeling that tied the set at 24-24. A Fighting Scots victory would be detrimental to Wheeling as it would give them momentum heading into the fifth set. Teams would enter a win-by-two scenario and Mady Winters knocked down the first point for Wheeling with a kill. A service error tied things up at 25-25 and had the ball on the Edinboro side. However, Reagan Rosi would secure Wheeling’s next kill and an Edinboro offensive error sealed the deal as Wheeling walked away with a 27-25 victory.
The Cardinals moved on to the Atlantic Regional Championship game and were able to play the game on their home turf for the second year in a row. It was a big day for a pair of senior cardinals as Kayla Bekier and Lexi Reinert tied for team leader with 15 kills each. Mady Winters, Tylah Yeomansand Lexi Smith completed Wheeling’s balanced offensive attack with 11 kills apiece in the win. Karly Niesen led the way with 52 assists on the night and Audrey Francois had a team-high 21 digs to complement the Cardinals’ individual efforts. They would eventually fall to Gannon 3-0 in the league game, but it was that magical run that got them there.
Stay tuned each week for a new throwback to the Saturday game. Next week we’ll revisit the story as the Wheeling Wrestling team took the head coach’s first victory Daniel Ownbeycoaching career in a double game against Bluefield State.