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FGCU Volleyball Captures Third Consecutive ASUN Title By Sweeping Lipscomb

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Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

On Saturday, Nov. 18, FGCU, the number one seed, faced off against Lipscomb University, the number two seed, in the ASUN Volleyball Championship final. With a dominant showing in the match, the Eagles swept the Bisons 3-0 to capture their third consecutive ASUN title.

To get to this point en route to the ASUN Championship final, FGCU defeated Bellarmine and Kennesaw State. On the other side of the bracket, Lipscomb defeated Stetson and North Florida to make this match possible.

In their only match this season prior to the final, the Eagles narrowly won at home, 3-2. Adding to the intrigue of this final, the last team that defeated FGCU in the ASUN Championship final was Lipscomb in 2020, 3-2. After winning the final in 2021 over Jacksonville State, 3-1, and 2022 over Liberty, 3-0, FGCU needed to get past Lipscomb in order to complete the three-peat.

FGCU was up to the challenge as the Eagles got off to a scorching hot start to the first set. In short order, the Eagles captured set one, 25-11, as the set was clinched with a kill by junior outside hitter Shelby Kent to give the Eagles an early lead.

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The second set was tighter than the first set. The Bisons never let the Eagles gain as large of a lead as they had in the prior set. The Bisons even fended off an Eagle set point for four points of their own, flipping the set from 24-17 to 24-21. But a service error by the Bisons clinched set two for the Eagles, 25-21, as FGCU was now only a set away from another title.

A quick start in the third set did the trick for FGCU as they led Lipscomb early, 6-0, and forced the Bisons to call an early timeout. Although the Bisons were able to battle back and make it much closer throughout the set, the Eagles had gained a large enough advantage that their lead was never really in danger.

Another kill by Kent secured the set, 25-20, and match victory, 3-0, for FGCU’s third consecutive ASUN title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament via the automatic qualifier. The Eagles, from 2021-2023, are the first team to win three straight ASUN Championships since Lipscomb, from 2009-2011. FGCU is also only the third team overall to do so in the conference’s history, joining Lipscomb and UCF, who did it twice in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

Head coach Matt Botsford commented on the rare achievement of three straight conference championships and what that meant after the match.

“It’s pretty special. To do this once is hard enough. To do it three times in a row, that’s a pretty amazing statistic, and I couldn’t be prouder because this is an entirely different team than what we had out on the floor last year. So for them to be able to do what they did and play at the level that they played, I’m just really proud of them,” Botsford said.

Graduate student and setter Lily Tessier was named the MVP of the tournament as well as to the ASUN All-Tournament Team. She led the final match in assists with 32. Tessier is originally from Fort Myers so accomplishing all of this at home meant a lot to her. After spending time at Florida State and Iowa initially before coming back to Fort Myers, she said that the tournament run was special, especially because she hadn’t been in a conference tournament before. She had this to say about her performance being recognized after the match by being named the MVP of the tournament.

“It’s amazing to be recognized for everything that I’ve done this year and what I’ve brought to this team. And everybody’s played a whole role. For my coach to see it and for other coaches to see it, it’s awesome,” Tessier said.

Senior middle blocker Juliana Lentz was also named to the ASUN All-Tournament Team. Lentz has spent her entire collegiate career at FGCU so she was a part of the two prior championship teams but she was also on the team as a freshman in 2020 that had lost to Lipscomb in the final. The win was extra special for her as she said after the match.

“This is amazing. Not only because I’m a senior, not only because it’s my third time doing it. But also because my freshman year, Lipscomb beat us in the final and I got my revenge my senior year and that’s what matters. So I’m very happy right now. It was a great game, the girls played amazing and I’m so proud of my team,” Lentz said.

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

Junior outside hitter Skylar English was the third and final Eagle named to the ASUN All-Tournament Team. English led the match in kills with 10, service aces with four and points with 14. She was a part of the previous two championships, but missed most of last season after suffering a season-ending knee injury. English spoke after the match about how much this victory meant for her.

“I’m ecstatic. This is just the best feeling ever. For me personally, it means so much more coming back from a season-ending knee injury last year. I knew I was going to work hard just to get to this moment again this year and it feels awesome,” English said.

The Eagles’ season is not over yet as FGCU will be heading to the NCAA Tournament. Their first round match will be on Thursday against the fourth seed in the Upper Left Region of the bracket, the University of Florida. The Gators are 18-9 on the year, but the Eagles will look to play spoiler in Gainesville and move on.

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About the Contributor
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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