NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The FGCU volleyball team narrowly escaped the Curb Event Center with a victory on Saturday afternoon, winning the fifth set 15-12 to clinch a 3-2 victory over the host Belmont Bruins. With the win the Eagles improve to 11-4 in the A-Sun and currently sit in third place in the conference standings.
The Eagles bounced back nicely after being swept by Lipscomb the night before, battling for two hours against the Bruins. FGCU won the first set, but required extra points to do it, winning 29-27. The extended first set would prove to be foreshadowing of what would end up being a long match. Belmont had four separate set points, including a 24-22 lead, but the Eagles fought back every time. Jelena Simic (Lazarevac, Serbia) stepped up when the Eagles were up against the wall, recording two kills and a block on three of the four Bruin set points. Simic also recorded the final kill of the set, giving FGCU the 29-27 win and a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second set started out as a tight contest, but after the Eagles pulled within a point at 15-14, Belmont pulled away, winning 25-18 to even the match at one set apiece. The Bruins offense was clicking on all cylinders, registering a .351 hitting percentage in the set, committing just one error in 37 total attacks.
Set three was an offensive affair, with both teams hitting over .460 for the set. Jacqueline Cowden (Danville, Calif.) recorded back-to-back kills to give the Eagles a 14-10 lead, and FGCU never looked back, taking the third set 25-20.
Down two sets to one, Belmont responded in strong fashion immediately in the fourth set, using a 10-0 run to take a 10-1 lead, forcing head coach Dave Nichols to burn both of his timeouts within the first ten points of the set. The Eagles were never able to get to within striking distance for the rest of the set, as Belmont won set four 25-12, sending the match to a decisive fifth set.
The teams exchanged the lead four times early in the fifth set, but neither was able to stretch the lead beyond two points. But the Eagles, riding a pair of kills from Simic and a pair of blocks from Cowden and Anna Wagner (Lincoln, Neb.), were able to run five straight points, taking a 14-10 lead. After Belmont put down two kills to cut it to 14-12, Simic ended the match with her 22nd kill, giving the Eagles a 15-12 win in set five.
Jelena Simic led the Eagles offense with 22 kills, hitting .312 for the match, and also added 17 digs defensively. Jacqueline Cowden hit .370 on the day, recording 13 kills. Emma Racila (Fort Myers, Fla.) also reached double-figures in kills with 13. Defensively, Holly Youngquist (Estero, Fla.) led the Eagles with 26 digs. Chandra Lefever (Fort Morgan, Colo.) also had double-digit digs with 14, along with 49 assists.
With five conference matches remaining before the A-Sun tournament, the Eagles sit in third place at 11-4, 1.5 matches behind second-place Jacksonville and two matches in front of fourth-place Campbell. The Eagles will return to Alico Arena next week, hosting ETSU on Friday, October 30th, at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 31st, Campbell will visit FGCU, also at 7 p.m.