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Eagles Advance to the ASUN Volleyball Championship Final With Win Over Owls

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

On Nov. 17, FGCU volleyball matched up against Kennesaw State in the semifinals of the ASUN Volleyball Championship. After beating Bellarmine in a sweep the night before, 3-0, the Eagles faced off against the fourth seeded Owls, who defeated North Alabama in their match, 3-1. Despite dropping the first set, FGCU rallied to win the next three sets and the match, 3-1, to advance to the final.

The Owls were 18-10 on the season and the fourth seed. In their previous matchups, the Eagles won both this season with 3-2 win on the road and a 3-1 win at home.

Starting off the first set, it was Kennesaw State that got off to the early lead. That lead was never relinquished as the Owls got off to a 1-0 lead with a 25-21 victory in set one.

The Eagles were able to respond in the next set though. In set two, the teams were close until FGCU grabbed onto a lead as large as six points at one point. Kennesaw State was able to close the gap late to just a one point lead, 22-21, that forced FGCU to call a timeout. However, the Eagles were able to tie things up by winning the set, 25-22, as the ball hit the net on an Owl serve.

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“I don’t think for one second we thought we were losing that match. I think everybody, you could tell, had the right mindset. We were all on the same page and we worked through some different connections and different things in the first set and we just kept working throughout the match to find it until it clicked for us and then we just ran with that,” graduate student and setter Lily Tessier said after the match.

As for set three, the teams traded the lead early once again. FGCU then was able to go up by as much as seven points. Kennesaw State tried to mount a late comeback, but it was to no avail. The Eagles took a 25-19 set three victory, which was clinched by fifth-year outside hitter Alexandra Zakutney, and all of a sudden, FGCU had a chance to clinch the match and a trip to the final in the next set.

The Owls, however, weren’t going to go down quietly. Kennesaw State got out to a hot start in the fourth set and led as late as 14-13, trying desperately to keep their season alive and force a deciding fifth set.

Set four was even tighter from there. FGCU did take the lead, but that lead was never bigger than three points for the Eagles. It was a set and match point for FGCU that Kennesaw State was able to fight off. But the Owls could only fight so much longer as the Eagles took advantage on the next point as Tessier sealed the set win, 25-23, and match win, 3-1, for FGCU. Head coach Matt Botsford commented on Tessier and the team’s performance as well as what he’s looking for in the final after the match.

“For me, that match tonight was about side out efficiency and side out offense. Lily was tremendous and our hitters were tremendous. And we have to be able to do that against these top teams. We’ve got to be able to match them on that side of it. So just continue to do what we’re doing,” Botsford said. 

The Eagles will face off against the second seed in the tournament, Lipscomb, tonight in the final. FGCU is looking for their third consecutive ASUN Volleyball Championship title. The last team to beat FGCU in the final was Lipscomb in 2020.

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About the Contributor
James Curtis
James Curtis, Eagle News Sports Editor
James Curtis is a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in global studies. He is from Tampa, FL, and has known he wanted to be a journalist since taking a journalism class in seventh grade. He has been involved in sports for his whole life, including swimming competitively all the way through high school. His goal now is to be a sports journalist. When not covering sports games or writing stories, he's usually spending his free time with his friends or watching YouTube.

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