After beginning its season with a marquee victory over Florida A&M, the Florida Gulf Coast University Volleyball Team dropped two games at Miami’s Knight Sports Complex to Seton Hall University and the University of Miami on Saturday, Aug. 30. The Eagles are now 1-2 on the season.
The Eagles got off to a strong start against the Pirates of Seton Hall, winning the first two sets in a decisive manner, but then dropped the next two sets to send the match into a fifth set in which the game was ultimately decided in a 17-15 finish.
In the finale, the Eagles struggled to get into a rhythm matched up against the Hurricanes’ athleticism, falling in three consecutive sets (25-10, 25-19, 25-17) to the ACC opponent.
“This season is going to be a work in progress,” head coach Matt Botsford said in a press release. “But the overriding theme should be that the season provides us an upwards trajectory. We don’t want to fixate on a single day because we know that even when there are dips, two weeks from now we will better than we are today. After a day like today, we know better what we need to work on and what we need to prepare better for. I know that from a player’s perspective this is disappointing, but from a coaching prospective, it is a valuable resource.”
Although the Eagles produced 67 total kills compared to Seton Hall’s 48, the Pirates had the advantage on the defensive end with 15 blocks compared to FGCU’s 5. FGCU had 38 errors compared to Seton Hall’s 14, which proved to be a deciding factor in the game.
Jessica Barnes again led the Eagles’ offense for the second-straight match with 18 kills. Vanessa Benke aided to the team performance with 16 kills along with 13 digs to produce a double-double for her second-consecutive game. Olivia Mesner and Eleonora Kazarian also had productive afternoons with 14 and 13 kills respectively.
Gigi Meyer aided the Eagles’ attempt at victory with 54 assists along with 12 digs while Whitney Masters led the team with 19 digs.
The Eagles came out of the gates strong with a close first set victory 25-23 that carried over into the second set where an 8-1 start eventually led into a 25-14 victory and a 2-0 lead. However, the Pirates rebounded in the 3rd and 4th sets to tie the match at 2-2.
This led to a hard fought 5th set in which the Eagles used a series of kills from Benke to jump out to an 11-7 lead. However, the Pirates fought back and the teams’ traded back and forth on points until Seton Hall capitalized on an attack error from FGCU and used two straight kills to pull out a victory by a score of 17-15 in the deciding set.
The Eagles played another game that evening against the Hurricanes, whom hosted the tournament. Miami’s athleticism and physicality caused problems for the Eagles throughout the matchup.
Jessica Barnes again led the Eagles’ attack with eight kills, while Mesner contributed seven and Benke added six. Gigi Meyer set up her teammates nicely with 20 of the 23 assists on kills in this matchup. However, the Eagles mustered a .250 attack percentage compared to the Hurricanes’ .440.
Although both teams started the matchup by trading points, the Hurricanes quickly surmounted any momentum the Eagles had by taking a double digit lead in the first set and Miami never looked back. In the final set, Miami dominated with 17 kills and no attack errors.
The Hurricanes improved to 3-0, with every single one of their wins coming in the Hurricane Invitational.
This upcoming weekend the Eagles will travel to the Ohio State Annual D.C. Koehl Classic. They are slated to take on Southern Illinois, Auburn, and the host Ohio State Buckeyes. Play begins Friday, Sept. 5 at 10 a.m. against the Salukis of Southern Illinois.