Florida Gulf Coast University freshman Mackenzie Allen gave an impressive performance in her first career start Saturday night during FGCU’s first conference game against Stetson.
“This was the first time I’ve ever started and longest I’ve ever played so I’m really happy,” Allen said. “I feel pretty good [with the win].”
In FGCU’s three-set win (25-23, 25-18, 30-28), Allen, a Gulf Coast High School grad, topped the stat sheets in kills and digs and dominating the court, attributing
After suffering an ACL tear during last week’s UMKC match, FGCU’s top digger, Vanessa Benke, will sit out for the rest of the season. With Benke out, FGCU volleyball head coach Matt Botsford called on Allen to assist the Eagles’ attack.
“We were dealing with a little bit of adversity with Vanessa’s injury last week and adding a new line up,” Botsford said. “I was very pleased to see Mackenzie, who replaced her, come right in right off the bat be very comfortable and that was a huge difference for us.”
Botsford says that Allen’s blocking ability was the biggest asset that ultimately gave her the position. Botsford made his decision to start Allen Friday.
“What separated Mackenzie was her blocking,” Botsford said. “She’s a really good blocker, and I think she’s going to develop into a great blocker over time.”
During Saturday’s game, Allen lead the Eagles with 32 total attempts, tied with Eleonora Kazarian for second in kills (11) and was second in digs with 10.
“When a player gets hurt, it’s always really hard on the team,” Allen said, “so to come in as a replacement, there’s always a lot of pressure. But the team did an awesome job of making me feel comfortable.”
FGCU struggled to finish the first set, giving away seven points after the announcement of FGCU’s set point. A kill from senior Jessica Barnes would win the set for the Eagles. The Eagles eased by Stetson in the second set, earning a 25-18 set win.
In the third, the Eagles fell behind for the first time in the match, staying within one throughout most of the match. The two remained and FGCU within one until FGCU managed to gain a one-point advantage over Stetson. An attack error from Stetson would give FGCU the final point for a three set win, 30-28.
“We started talking to each other [in the third set], when it was 25-25 we’d tell each other, ‘OK, we just need two more.’ We just kept pushing and I was really excited when it ended,” Allen said.
The A-Sun Conference announced Allen as the A-Sun Freshman of the Week on Monday after her first career double-double. The award is the first of Allen’s career and first for the team this season.
With the win, FGCU advances to a 6-7 overall record, and No. 4 in the conference with a record of 1-0 conference play. Allen and the Eagles will continue conference play against North Florida and No. 1 Jacksonville at Alico Arena this weekend. Saturday’s game against Jacksonville will be the first “Pink-out” of the year.