ESTERO, Fla. – Despite a valiant effort in the second match of the day, the FGCU sand volleyball team dropped two matches at the Atlantic Sun Championship Friday at the Estero Community Park. The no. 5 Eagles fell to no. 4 Mercer to open the tournament and concluded their season with a loss cross-state rival Stetson.
The Eagles fell 5-0 in in the morning match against Mercer before falling 4-1 against Stetson to end the day. Although the result was unfortunate, the day was highlighted by a strong three-set win from the no. 1 pair of Kaitlin Holm (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers High School) and Whitney Masters (Muncie, Ind./Wapahani High School). As a senior, Holm’s last collegiate match resulted in an emotional 2-1 victory.
“I think the whole season has been a process, especially with a transition to a new coach,” said head coach Matt Botsford. “I’m happy about the direction we’re going but it takes time, especially when you have so many indoor players that are doing this for the first time. But we have enough talent that if we keep working we can see the type of improvements that we expect. I’m very happy that Kaitlin goes out the way that she did. She’s been a great representative of the university and the program so I couldn’t be more happy for her. Karina [Mambuca] has also played extremely well the whole season. They are great role models for the younger players and I’m happy that I had a little bit of time to coach them.”
As the bottom seed, the Eagles opened tournament play with no. 4 Mercer in the first match of the day. The no. 4 pair of Olivia Mesner (Boca Raton, Fla./Spanish River High School) and Shelby Joslin (Alva, Fla./Evangelical High School) and the no. 5 pair of Madi Wilcox (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein High School) and Marlene Moeller (Ludinghausen, Germany/Pascal Gymnasium) both fell in their first sets before producing a closer match in the second set. Both teams ultimately fell to the Bears, 2-0.
Mesner and Joslin fell by scores of 21-15, 23-21, while Moeller and Wilcox lost 21-18, 21-15.
The Bears produced strong games at the no. 1 and no. 2 pairs. The no. 1 pair of Holm and Masters fell to Mercer’s top pair, 21-16, 21-13. At the no. 2 position, Elenora Kazarian (Tibilisi, Georgia/College of Central Florida) and Caroline Jordan (Orlando, Fla./William R. Boone High School) dropped their match 21-16, 21-14.
The Eagles’ strongest match of the day was at the no. 3 position. Karina Mambuca (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast High School) and Vanessa Benke (Toledo, Brazil/College of Central Florida) earned a 22-20 win in the first set before falling 21-17 in the second set. In the decisive bout, the Eagles fell in a close battle, 15-13
With the sweep, the Eagles fell to the consolation bracket in the double-elimination format where they faced no. 2 Stetson University in an afternoon matchup.
The Green and Blue fell again at the no. 4 and no. 5 positions but fought hard in the three final matches. All three matches saw one-point point differentials through the majority of the first set and the Eagles took two of the three games into three sets.
At no. 1, Holm and Masters took a slight lead early on and maintained the lead through the first set. They earned a 21-17 win in set one and carried the momentum into the second set. The second bout saw another tough fight with both teams battling for points late but the Hatters took a 21-18 win to even the match and force a third set.
Holm and Masters took a quick lead but never extended the lead to more than two points. The duo maintained the advantage and worked through the decisive set to earn a 15-11 victory to end Holm’s career on a positive note.
The no. 2 pair maintained a tie with Stetson’s no. 2 pair midway through the first set but ultimately fell, 21-18. Kazarian and Jordan dropped their match with a 21-16 loss in the second set.
Mambuca and Benke challenged Stetson in their first set and earned a strong 24-22 victory. The pair fell in the second set 21-14 to bring the match to a decisive third set but fell 15-12 in the final set. The three-set effort was the final bout of Mambuca’s collegiate career.
Mercer 5 FGCU 0
1. Natalie Braun/Jamie Duffy (MERCER) def. Kaitlin Holm/Whitney Masters (FGCU) 21-16, 21-13
2. Tori Penrod/Emma Peel (MERCER) def. Elenora Kazarian/Caroline Jordan (FGCU) 21-16, 21-14
3. Emily Rochefort/Zoe Becton (MERCER) def. Karina Mambuca/Vanessa Benke (FGCU) 20-22, 21-17, 15-13
4. Hannah Sorensen/Erin Brett (MERCER) def. Olivia Mesner/Shelby Joslin (FGCU) 21-15, 23-21
5. Caroline Carlton/Demi-Shay Watchorn (MERCER) def. Marlene Moeller/Madi Wilcox (FGCU) 21-18, 21-15
Stetson 4 FGCU 1
1. Kaitlin Holm/Whitney Masters (FGCU) def. Kaylee Anderson/Kaley Melville (STETSON) 21-17, 18-21, 15-11
2. Catherine Coston/Savannah Byl (STETSON) def. Caroline Jordan/Elenora Kazarian (FGCU) 21-18, 21-16
3. Rachael Farrell/Julie Bassett (STETSON) def. Karina Mambuca/Vanessa Benke (FGCU) 22-24, 21-14, 15-12
4. Maren Rygh/Jordann Dierickx (STETSON) def. Olivia Mesner/Shelby Joslin (FGCU) 21-16, 21-18
5. Kristin Lind/Tiffany Creamer (STETSON) def. Marlene Moeller/Madi Wilcox (FGCU) 21-15, 21-12