FORT MYERS, Fla. - The Florida Gulf Coast University volleyball team earned its first victory of the season Friday morning as it opened the Homewood Suites at the Fort Myers Airport Volleyball Invitational with a 3-1 (25-15, 25-19, 24-26, 25-15) victory over the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman at Alico Arena.
Senior Adrianne McNally (Howell, Mich./Pinckney HS) led the team with 19 kills, while fellow senior Caitlin Shawver (Lauderdale by the Sea, Fla./Barry) recorded a double-double with 13 digs and 12 kills.
FGCU (1-1) came out hot in the first set as it quickly opened a 16-9 lead thanks to back-to-back blocks from the duo of sophomore Brittany Muse (Arcadia, Fla./DeSoto County HS) and senior Chelsea Lyles (Colorado Springs, Col./Western Nebraska CC). The Eagles pushed that lead to 21-12 after a kill by McNally. A kill by B-CU’s (0-2) Linda Nwabuko cut the FGCU lead to 22-14, but that would be as close as the Wildcats would get as FGCU won the game 25-15 thanks to a service error by Bethune-Cookman. The Blue and Green hit .303, while limiting B-CU to a hitting percentage of .053
Game two went back and forth before Shawver blasted a kill that put FGCU up 16-13. A kill by Alexis Bliese made the score 19-16 but FGCU continued to keep its lead and won the second game 25-19. B-CU hit just .111 in the second game compared to FGCU’s .310.
FGCU fell behind 5-1 in game three after back-to-back service aces from Bliese. A pair of kills by Shawver got FGCU within two points at 5-3, but Bethune-Cookman was able stretch their lead to 22-16. The Eagles showed a lot of heart by battling to tie the score at 24-24 thanks in part to solid play from seniors Jacqueline Cowden (Danville, Calif./Temple) and Emma Racila (Fort Myers, Fla./College of Charleston). The Wildcats would hold on to take the 26-24 win after an attack error by Cowden and a kill from Jessica Wilson.
The Eagles jumped on the Wildcats early in the fourth set and build a 10-point advantage (19-10) after a McNally service ace. FGCU continued to dominate the set as kills from Shawver, Racila, Lyles and McNally led the Blue and Green to their first win of the season after taking game four 25-15.
McNally nearly recorded a double-double in her first collegiate volleyball game with 19 kills and nine digs. Racila chipped in with 12 kills, while Shawver registered a double-double with 12 kills and 13 digs. Lyles and Cowden chipped in with seven kills and a solo block each. Freshman setter Camil Dominguez (Santo Domingo, D.R./Santa Teresita) recorded a team-high 51 assists and sophomore Holly Youngquist (Estero, Fla./Evangelical Christian) had team-high 16 digs.
For the match, FGCU’s hitting percentage was .304 compared to B-CU’s .164.
In the final match on day one of the invitational the Eagles fought hard but were defeated 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-22) by UCF in front of an awesome crowd of 1,041. The attendance is the largest for the FGCU Volleyball program since making the jump to Division I in 2007.
With the opening set tied at 7-7, UCF (2-0) used an 11-2 run to take a commanding 18-9 edge before taking the set 25-15. The Knights’ .407 hitting percentage hurt the Eagles, who hit just .100.
In the second set, UCF hit .371 as a team, while the Eagles managed a .222 hitting percentage. After a Muse kill put the Eagles out in front, 23-21, the Knights scored four straight points to take the second set 25-23.
The final set was played similar to the second as the two teams battled, but the Knights of UCF held off the Eagles long enough to close-out the match, 25-22.
McNally led FGCU with 11 kills. Dominguez finished with 29 assists, while Youngquist provided the defensive efforts with 13 digs.
FGCU will play the second match of day two action at the Homewood Suites Volleyball at the Fort Myers Airport Invitational on Saturday when they take on FAU at 11 a.m. The Blue and Green concludes the invitational with a matchup against Houston Baptist at 7 p.m.