Winthrop (14-16, 5-9 Big South) took the match by scores of 24-26, 24-26, 25-15, 25-14, and 16-14, holding Gardner-Webb (13-16, 3-11 Big South) to a .110 attacking percentage, while the Eagles hit at a .270 clip.
Celarek led GWU in kills with 18, followed closely by Moore with 17 smashes. Emma Milstead led the squad with 14 digs, while Tinsley Fain posted 28 assists and Kaelyn Dyson led the way with four blocks.
Winthrop was led by Kelsey Schroll with 12 kills, Carlie Skelton with 19 digs, Siani Yamaguchi with 27 assists and Brianna Gray and Schroll each had seven blocks.
A tightly contested first set got the action started, as there were nine ties and four lead changes in the opening frame. GWU built an early 8-5 lead after a kill by Nicole Celarek, yet Winthrop would go on a 5-0 run to take a 10-8 advantage. The Runnin' Bulldogs would respond with a 6-1 spurt to go up 14-11 after a service ace by Kacy O'Connor, yet Winthrop put together a 12-5 run to eventually build a four-point lead at 23-19. GWU then scored four unanswered points to tie the set at 23-23 after a kill by Tinsley Fain. The Eagles would score the next point, but Gardner-Webb would take the next three to claim the first set, 26-24
The second set was much like the first, with 10 ties and three lead changes. Action was back and fourth until Winthrop opened a five point lead at 19-14. The Eagles would keep a five point advantage at 23-18, yet the Runnin' Bulldogs rallied to string together six consecutive points to take a 24-23 after a block from Kaelyn Dyson and Taylor Lillard. GWU would score two of the next three points to take a 26-24 set win on a block by Keira Moore, and take a 2-0 advantage into the 10-minute break.
Winthrop would jump out to an early 5-2 advantage to begin the third set, yet GWU would go on a quick 4-1 run to tie the set at 6-6 after a kill by Celarek. The Eagles responded with at 10-4 run to take a 16-10 advantage, leading to a Gardner-Webb timeout. Winthrop would remain in control for the conclusion of the frame, taking the third set by a 25-15 score.
The Eagles would control play throughout the fourth set, jumping out to an early 7-3 lead. GWU would score two straight points to pull within two at 7-5 after kills from Molly Johnston and Moore, but Winthrop stay in the drivers seat for the set, winning by a 25-14 score to send the match to a decisive fifth set.
Gardner-Webb opened the fifth set with a slim 5-4 lead after a Celarek kill, with action going back-and-forth until Winthrop pieced together three unanswered points to take a 13-10 lead. The Runnin' Bulldogs would rally to tie the set at 13-13 after a kill by Moore and would tie the set again at 14-14 after another kill by Moore, but Winthrop would score to next two points to take the match-deciding set by a 16-14 score.
The Runnin' Bulldogs will hit the road this weekend for their final road swing of the season, beginning at High Point on Friday evening at 7:00pm.