Eagles Advance to A-Sun Conference Semifinals
Thursday, November 19, 2009 | by Carl Bleich

FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University volleyball team is one step closer to earning the school’s first Division I NCAA Tournament berth.

FGCU topped Campbell 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-17) in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Atlantic Sun Volleyball Championship at Alico Arena on Thursday night. The match was the FGCU volleyball program’s first Division I postseason match.

The Eagles (17-12) will take on Jacksonville Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Alico Arena in the semifinals.

Junior Jelena Simic (Lazarevec, Serbia) showed why she was selected to be a member of the First Team All-Atlantic Sun. She finished with 18 kills, six aces and six digs.

“Great match by Jelena,” FGCU head coach Dave Nichols said. “She is a game changer. Our defensive movement was a lot better because we were loose. We followed the gameplan well.”

Campbell never led the match at any point in any of the three sets.

Simic ripped off five kills and an ace in the first 12 points of the first set to give FGCU a 9-3 advantage. A kill by junior Emma Racila (Fort Myers, Fla.) put FGCU up 12-5 and junior Jacqueline Cowden (Danville, Calif.) extended that lead to 16-8 with a kill. Senior Ashley Yance (Fort Myers, Fla.) had a clean block that put the Eagles up 21-13 and she blasted a kill shortly after to bolster FGCU’s lead to 22-15. Simic blasted her eighth kill of the set leading the Eagles to a 25-18 win.

FGCU opened another early lead in the second set when senior Chandra Lefever (Fort Morgan, Col.) tipped a kill over to give the Eagles a 5-1 lead. Simic had back-to-back kills not soon after to put FGCU up 10-4 and another kill from Cowden put the Eagles up 12-5. Yance’s kill put FGCU up 16-7 and a kill by Racila gave the Eagles a 19-7 advantage. Campbell battled back to cut the Eagle lead to 22-13 before Simic blasted another kill to push the Eagle lead back to ten at 23-13. A kill by Cowden won the second set for FGCU at 25-15 and gave the Eagles a stranglehold on the match at 2-0.

Simic served back-to-back aces to give FGCU the early lead in the third set at 6-2. A kill from Yance gave FGCU an 11-3 advantage before Campbell woke up and cut the Eagle lead to four. Racila helped FGCU to a more comfortable lead at 16-8 with an ace and she blasted a kill later in the set to put the Eagles up 21-14. After a loud ovation on match point from the home crowd, Cowden crushed a kill that gave FGCU the third set 25-17 and the match.

FGCU hit .223 as a team for the match while Campbell hit .057.

Yance, Cowden, Racila and sophomore Anna Wagner (Lincoln, Neb.) all finished with six kills for FGCU. Lefever led FGCU with 37 assists while sophomore Holly Youngquist (Estero, Fla.) led FGCU with 26 digs. The libero also recorded her third kill of the season when she dug a ball out and over the net early in the third set.

Belmont swept Kennesaw State in the other first round match on Thursday at Alico Arena. That means Belmont will take on A-Sun top seed Lipscomb Friday at 5 p.m. for the right to play either FGCU or Jacksonville in the championship game.