Volleyball Stays Perfect in Conference with Sweep of ETSU
Saturday, September 12, 2009 | by Carl Bleich

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - It’s been nothing but sweeps for the Florida Gulf Coast University women’s volleyball team in Atlantic Sun Conference play thus far this season.

The Eagles earned their third consecutive sweep to open conference play on Saturday when they topped East Tennessee State 3-0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-20) at Brooks Gym in Johnson City, Tennessee behind 13 kills from junior Jacqueline Cowden (Danville, Calif.).

FGCU (4-5, 3-0) handed the Buccaneers (3-6, 2-1) their first A-Sun loss.

“I liked how calm we were when the games got close,” FGCU coach Dave Nichols said. “We took care of business against a quality opponent.”

The Eagles swept Stetson on Tuesday and swept Campbell Friday night. The team left Buies Creek, N.C. Saturday morning, made the five hour drive to Johnson City and immediately went to Brooks Gym to play.

The drive had no ill effects on the Eagles as they never trailed in the first set. They took an early 4-0 lead after a kill by junior Jelena Simic (Lazarevec, Serbia) and pushed that lead to 13-9 after a kill by senior Ashley Yance (Fort Myers, Fla.). The Eagles opened up a six point lead at 23-17 after a kill by sophomore Anna Wagner (Lincoln, Neb.) but were forced to call a timeout after the Buccaneers cut the lead to 23-20. FGCU regained its poise and won the set 25-21 after a block from Cowden.

Another block by Cowden bolstered FGCU to an 8-3 lead in the second set and prompted an ETSU timeout. The Buccaneers got within two at 10-8 but Yance and Cowden buried kills back-to-back to keep FGCU safely ahead. The Eagles later won four consecutive points, behind two kills from Simic and one from Cowden, to take a 19-11 lead. East Tennessee State closed within five at 21-16 but a kill by junior Emma Racila (Fort Myers, Fla.) put FGCU up 2-0 with a 25-17 second set victory.

FGCU hit .467 (16-2-30) compared to ETSU’s .143 (10-6-28) in the third and final set. FGCU jumped out to an 11-5 lead after Cowden blasted a kill and opened up a 14-8 lead after a kill by Simic. Senior Chandra Lefever (Fort Morgan, Col.) put FGCU up 17-12 with a kill and FGCU won the set 25-20 after an attack error by ETSU’s Erin Ryan.

Simic finished with 11 kills while Wagner finished with 10. Lefever finished with 38 assists and junior Alexa Napolean (Naples, Fla.) led FGCU with 13 digs.

FGCU will close its season-opening 10-game road trip against USC Upstate (3-6, 0-1) Monday night at the Hodge Center in Spartanburg, S.C. The Eagles will open the home portion of their schedule September 18th when they host A-Sun foe Belmont at Alico Arena at 5 p.m.

“I really like how our side out game has improved,” Nichols said. “Learning how to play on the road is critical to our success.”