FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Florida Gulf Coast University volleyball team came into Friday night’s home opener with a perfect 4-0 record in A-Sun play. After battling visiting Belmont through five hard-fought sets for two hours and fifteen minutes, the Eagles barely hung on for a 3-2 victory, extending the Eagles undefeated conference start to five matches.
Belmont got off to a blistering start, hitting .583 in the opening set, recording 15 kills against just one error on 24 attacks. Despite Belmont’s effective hitting, the Eagles actually held a lead for a majority of the set, leading 19-18 before the Bruins rattled off seven consecutive points to win the first set 25-19.
The Eagles led throughout in the second set, but unlike set one, FGCU was able to close out the second set, 25-20. Belmont’s hitting percentage dropped to .146 in the second set, while the Eagles improved to a .342 percentage for the set.
The third set was much closer than the first two, with twelve tie scores and six lead changes. With the Bruins leading 14-13, the Eagles went on a 7-1 run to take a 20-15 lead. A kill by Jacqueline Cowden (Danville, Calif.) gave FGCU a 25-20 win in set three.
Holding a 2-1 set lead, FGCU came out in the third set and immediately dug themselves a deep hole, trailing 17-9 at one point. But after head coach Dave Nichols called timeout, the Eagles won the next five points to trim the lead to 17-14. A few points later Jelena Simic (Lazarevac, Serbia) blasted a kill to put the Eagles in front for the first time all set, 19-18. But the Bruins would not go away quietly, winning three consecutive points to tie the match at 23 apiece. A kill by Ashley Yance (Fort Myers, Fla.) gave the Eagles match point at 24-23, but Belmont again rattled off three straight points, winning the fourth set, 26-24, and extending the match to a fifth set.
In the fifth and deciding set, FGCU came out strong and didn’t let up. A kill by Chandra Lefever (Fort Morgan, Col.) put the Eagles up 7-4, and a block by Yance and Anna Wagner (Lincoln, Neb.) extended the lead to 10-6. FGCU eventually closed out the match with a kill from Emma Racila (Fort Myers, Fla.), taking the fifth set, 15-10.
For the Bruins (4-8, 2-2), Maggie Johnson led the way with 15 kills and a pair of service aces. Carly Frazier also reached double-digits in kills with 12, to go along with six digs. Channing Salava registered 40 assists as well as picking up seven kills and four blocks. Defensively, Megan Clements led Belmont with 20 digs and Jenny Gray added 14 digs in addition to recording nine kills.
For the Eagles (6-5, 5-0), Anna Wagner led the offense with 17 kills and added 10 digs. Jelena Simic chipped in with 16 kills and 10 digs. Jacqueline Cowden also registered double-digit kills with 11. Chandra Lefever record 44 assists along with eight digs. Defensively, Holly Youngquist led FGCU with 17 digs.
The Eagles will be back in action on their home floor tomorrow evening as they play host to Lipscomb. The match is scheduled for a 7 PM start.