ROCK HILL, South Carolina – Led by Tournament MVP freshman Nicole Lott, the UNCW volleyball team defeated Winthrop, 3-1 (25-23, 26-24, 24-26, 25-15), and Bethune-Cookman, 3-0 (25-11, 25-12, 26-24), to capture the Winthrop Invitational title Saturday at Winthrop Coliseum.

The Seahawks improved to 11-3 overall as they captured their second tournament title of the season.

“The team is ecstatic to get another tournament win,” said UNCW Head Coach Amy Bambenek. “We played focused and determined all weekend and this tournament victory gives us a lot of momentum going into conference play.”

Lott became the third Seahawk to earn Tournament MVP honors this season, joining senior Christi Laite (Kristen Dickmann Invitational) and junior Morgan Kline (Hilton Garden INN Mayfaire UNCW Volleyball Classic). Laite and freshman Alyssa Desjardins were also named to the Winthrop Invitational All-Tournament Team as Laite was recognized for the fourth time this season while Desjardins earned her first All-Tournament Team honor.

“I think we are just seeing a glimpse of what Nicole is capable of and Alyssa showed great leadership and decision making,” said Bambenek. “Christi had a great offensive day and is playing confident under pressure. All three deserve their awards, but our players know it was a total team effort that led to a 3-0 weekend.”

Versus Winthrop, Kline and Laite tallied 14 kills apiece while Lott notched 11 spikes without an attack error for a .545 hitting percentage to power a Seahawks lineup that hit .234 for the match. Desjardins dished out 26 assists and senior Haley Collins added 14. Defensively, sophomore Lindsay Hartmann led all players with 15 digs while senior Courtney Porter racked up a career-high 10 blocks and sophomore Meredith Peacock added six rejections.  

Senior Irene Ojukwu tallied a match-best 17 kills and junior Alina Sopizhuk and sophomore Rachel Lenz tallied 10 apiece for the Eagles. Junior Jessie Vicic recorded a match-best 50 assists while Sopizhuk added a team-best 10 digs to record the double-double.

Leading 11-10 midway through the first set, a kill by Kline sparked the Seahawks to a 10-6 spurt and a 21-16 advantage. Facing set point, the Eagles would tally two straight points to pull within one, 24-23, but another spike by Kline gave the Seahawks a 25-23 victory and a 1-0 lead.

In a tight second set that would see a total of 10 ties and four lead changes, UNCW took advantage of a kill by Laite and a Winthrop attack error to break a 24-all tie and grab a 2-0 lead with a 26-24 triumph.

The Eagles would give the Seahawks a taste of their own medicine in the third set, using a pair of UNCW miscues to snap a 24-24 tie and extend the mach with a 26-24 victory.

Seahawks would put the match away in the fourth set, utilizing a 14-5 run to break open an 11-10 lead and cruise to a 25-15 victory and the match.

Versus Bethune-Cookman, Laite led the Seahawks with 10 kills while Lott added nine to highlight a balanced attack that saw nine players record a kill and the team a .263 hitting percentage for the match. Desjardins handed out 14 assists and Collins pitched in 11 while Hartmann tallied a match-best 14 digs.

Sophomore Delicia Pierre notched eight kills and sophomore Rhea Simon added seven for Bethune-Cookman. Freshman Alexas Thomas registered a match-best 23 while Pierre added a team-best 11 digs.

UNCW opened the first set by scoring the first 12 points of the frame as it cruised to a 25-11 victory and a 1-0 lead.

The Seahawks continued their domination of the Wildcats in the second set, closing the frame on a run spurt to take a 25-12 decision and build a 2-0 lead.

The third would be a tight affair that would feature a total of 12 ties and three lead changes. With the two teams tied at 24-all, a kill by Laite and a Bethune-Cookman attack error gave the Seahawks a 26-24 win, the match and the Winthrop Invitational championship.

UNCW returns to action Sept. 27 when they open Colonial Athletic Association play with a 7 p.m. match at Hofstra.