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@FGCU_VB Rallies for Five-Set Win Over USC Upstate
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Although it was not without a challenge, the FGCU women’s volleyball team held on to an early advantage to earn a 3-2 victory at USC Upstate on Friday. The Eagles took a 2-0 lead with tight wins in the first two sets (25-23, 25-21) before falling in set three and four (25-20, 25-23). A strong hitting percentage in the final set led FGCU to a 15-10 win and the five-set victory.
With the triumph, the Eagles improve to 8-10 on the season with a 5-1 record in Atlantic Sun play. The match marks the seventh-straight victory for the Eagles, who are unbeaten in the last three weeks.
“The team had a hard time getting into a rhythm tonight,” explained head coach Dave Nichols. “But we never stopped fighting together and we stayed in it mentally. USC Upstate played incredible defense, which challenged us but Whitney Masters had a huge effect on the game for us and helped us keep it together to get a really nice win.”
The close match was the second-consecutive five-set night for the Eagles, who defeated FAU 3-2 on Tuesday.
Jessica Barnes (Winter Haven, Fla./Haines City High School) led the Eagles on the night with 17 kills and 16 digs for her fourth double-double of the season. Offensively, Barnes saw assistance from Olivia Mesner (Boca Raton, Fla./Spanish River High School) and Kaitlin Holm (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers High School) who each added 11 kills, while Christine Pinder (Gainesville, Fla/Buchholz High School) had 10 on the night. Pinder recorded her sixth double-double at USC Upstate with 19 digs.
Juniors Whitney Masters (Muncie, Ind./Wapahani High School) and GiGi Meyer (Gainesville, Fla./Buchholz High School) also added double-figure digs for FGCU. Masters paced the team with 24 through five sets, while Meyer added 11 and led the squad with 48 assists.
While the Eagles struggled to get their footing early in the match, the Spartans took control of set one with a 6-1 lead. The Green and Blue collected its composure and tied the stanza at eight before the teams traded points to battle for the lead through the rest of the set. With the score tied at 23, a kill from Barnes and a Spartan error gave the Eagles a 25-23 win to take a 1-0 lead.
The Spartans took control again with a 7-3 lead to begin set two. The Eagles cut the deficit to 11-9 with a series of kills and continued to battle the home team. A streak of four points for FGCU tied the set at 16 points before a later five-point stretch gave the Eagles a 23-18 lead. FGCU maintained the advantage with two kills from Pinder and earned a 25-21 lead to go ahead 2-0 in the match.
The home team refused to go down without a fight and challenged FGCU in set three. The teams exchanged points to tie the score seven times in the first 22 points scored. Three attack errors by the Spartans combined with a kill from Pinder gave the Eagles a 14-11 lead. USC Upstate attempted to defuse the Eagles’ spark with a timeout and returned from the break to score the next five of six points and tie the set at 16. The Spartans took a 17-16 lead on a service ace and maintained the momentum through the set. Three-straight points to conclude the stanza gave USC Upstate a 25-20 win and kept the match in reach.
The Eagles watched as USC Upstate carried the momentum from set three into the fourth stanza. The home team took a 10-4 lead before Nichols was forced to call timeout to help the Eagles regroup. The team fought back against the Spartans but was unable to cut the deficit completely. USC Upstate maintained a 21-19 lead before four kills at the end of the set led them to a 25-23 victory to even the match at two sets each.
FGCU struggled offensively in sets three and four and maintained an average .084 attack percentage with 14 errors. The team rebounded quickly to finish the match with strong play and recorded their highest attack percentage of the night in set five, out-hitting the Spartans .368 to -.038 when it mattered most.
Kills from Holm and Pinder set the Eagles up to hold the control with the match on the line. The strong attack helped FGCU take a quick 4-1 lead and extend that advantage to 9-5, but two kills, an Eagle error and a service ace by the Spartans brought the set score to 9-8. Nichols called timeout to halt the momentum of the Spartans and enabled the Eagles to regain control. Four-quick points gave the Eagles a 13-9 lead before kills from Barnes and Holm set the team up for an ultimate 15-10 set victory and gave the Green and Blue a 3-2 match win.
The win secured a perfect 3-0 night for FGCU fall teams in Atlantic Sun action. The men’s soccer team took a 2-1 overtime win at ETSU, while women’s soccer earned a 2-1 win over ETSU at home. This year’s A-Sun record includes a streak of 14 consecutive games in which the Eagles have remained unbeaten. All three teams earned regular-season championships during the 2012 seasons.
FGCU will aim to continue to build on its win streak as the team travels to Johnson City, Tenn. to take on ETSU on Saturday afternoon. The Bucs of ETSU are 6-0 in Atlantic Sun action after defeating Stetson, 3-0, on Friday evening and currently hold sole possession of first place in the conference. The first set at Brooks Gym is slated for 3 p.m.
2013-14 volleyball tickets are available by visiting the Alico Arena Ticket Office, calling 239-590-7145 or logging on to FGCUAthletics.com/Tickets. Season tickets are $35 for adults and $17 for youth (ages 3-12). Single-game tickets can also be purchased for $6 per adult and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can receive a discounted rate of $3 per person. FGCU students and faculty/staff are admitted for free with a valid University ID.