Eagles back on track after slow start to season

After a tough non-conference schedule, including No. 3 Penn State, the FGCU volleyball team swept its weekend campaign at home over Atlantic Sun Conference foes Kennesaw State and Mercer University. After a two-win weekend, the Eagles improve to a 3-1 conference record, 4-10 overall.
The Eagles took the court Friday night looking for their second conference win of the season against the Kennesaw State Owls. The first set remained fairly even as the Eagles and Owls tied 11 times through the full 25-point set. A convincing kill from junior Jessica Barnes at the end of the set gave the Eagles victory the first set 25-17. Kennesaw evened the match after gaining an early lead in the second set, but eventually tied the Eagles at 21 after a 5-point unanswered rally from Kaitlin Holmes. The Owls regained control after an unanswered 2-point rally, and claimed the second set 25-23.
Tied at 1, the Eagles took the initial lead in the third set, but eventually tied at 17 with Kennesaw State. The two teams remained at a stalemate for the next four points until an Eagle attack including kills from Kaitlin Holms and Christine Pinder and 2 errors from the Owls allowed the Eagles to claim the third set 25-21. With the match now at 2-1, the Eagles claimed the final set after 12 tied scores and five lead changes. The Eagles claimed the final set 28-26, winning the match 3-1. FGCU had a total of 55 kills and advanced to a 2-1 conference record, 3-10 overall. The next night, the Eagles looked for the weekend sweep in their match against the Mercer Bears. The first set began as a challenge for the Eagles, who tied with Mercer 12 times with four lead changes, but the Eagles were able to take back the lead later in the set and advance to win the first set 28-26. After their victory in the first set, the Eagles were able to easily claim the last two sets, 25-13 and 25-17, winning the match 3-0. FGCU had a total of 51 kills as Mercer held a .157 with 35 kills, and went on to advance in the season to a 3-1 Atlantic Sun Conference record and 4-10 overall.
Junior outside hitter Jill Hopper returned to the court Friday night for the first time in weeks due to a foot injury. Hopper (yes, the irony) recorded 5 kills and a .444 hitting percentage Friday night and 6 digs against Mercer.
“We had a tough non-conference schedule, but it was great, it prepares us for A-Sun teams like no other,” said Hopper after the Green and Blue’s 3-0 win over Mercer. “We’re getting better. We have a strong conference and a lot of teams are showing a tough side to them, but everything’s looking up. We’re really excited for the rest of the season.”
This week, the Eagles will continue their conference campaign as they face first-place Stetson University in DeLand at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4. The Eagles land back at Alico Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 8 for their green-out match against FAU at 7 p.m.