FGCU comes from behind to beat Stetson 3-2
In the strongest comeback of the season, the Florida Gulf Coast University volleyball team defeated Stetson University 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 27-25, 25-26, 15-12) to move to 14-8 on the season and 7-1 in A-Sun Conference play.
The Eagles return to A-Sun action this weekend with pivotal away matches at Lipscomb and Northern Kentucky University.
“This is a defining weekend for the conference,” Coach Matt Botsford said.
Olivia Mesner and Jessica Barnes led the Eagle attack with 15 kills each in the victory over Stetson. Eleonora Kazarian chipped in with 14 kills for FGCU. Gigi Meyer facilitated the offense with 56 assists for the match.
According to game statistics, FGCU outperformed the Hatters 61 to 53 in kills and also enjoyed a 61 to 49 advantage in assists.
Stetson started the match with a 3-0 lead before Kazarian sparked a three-point run. The Hatters eventually regained their three-point edge after some wayward offense from the Eagles as FGCU hailed for its first timeout of the set. After the timeout, both teams traded offense before a Kazarian blast down the right side knotted things up at 12-12. The Eagles went on a 5-1 rally to take a 19-14 lead, but after the two Hatter points and another FGCU timeout, Stetson took hold for a 25-22 first set victory.
FGCU claimed an early advantage to start the second set, but a strong showing by the Hatters midway through the second backed by Jessica Armstrong’s offense gave Stetson the 2-0 lead in the match with a 25-20 victory in set two.
“We were playing high-error volleyball in sets one and two,” Botsford said.
The Hatters took take a 4-0 lead before Mesner and Kazarian stopped the bleeding with back-to-back swings to cut the deficit 4-2. Foster negated the last two FGCU points with consecutive kills, forcing the Eagles to regroup facing a 6-2 deficit. Despite the timeout, Stetson maintained its lead and stretched it to a 9-3 advantage, but the Eagles kept their heads up and scored the next four points forcing SU into three errors. Tutwiler rose to the occasion and blasted two of the next three exchanges through the Hatters’ defense to tie up the fourth set 10-10. With the stanza deadlocked, both offenses came together stretching it out to a 19-19 deadlock. FGCU then took three of the next four points to take a 23-20 lead in the set. Despite a late rally by Stetson to tie it up at 25-25, Tutwiler and Kazarian would not relent and shouldered the offense with back-to-back kills to cap the third set and cut the deficit to 2-1 in the match.
Kazarian and Mesner kills along with two Stetson attacking errors put the Eagles up 4-2, but the Hatters made an early attempt to seal the contest with a five-point spurt to push ahead 7-4.
Down three, FGCU called a timeout and immediately coaxed Stetson into consecutive errors. A Mesner slam from the right side tied the fourth set up 7-7. SU captured five of the next eight points before FGCU took matters into their own hands. The Eagles took a 14-13 edge and their offense carried it for the rest of the set. Soon, FGCU owned a 16-13 lead, forcing the Hatters into a timeout. The SU breather did not stop FGCU as they came out hammering five of the next six points, to take a 21-14 lead. Stetson gave one last effort, but Mesner and Allen prevented any late rally as the Eagles cruised to a fifth set with a 25-16 win in set four to square the match at 2-2.
Stetson showed no signs of giving up the match, beginning the final set with a 3-0 lead. FGCU banded together and tied it up with two swats from Mesner and an Allen kill. Stetson ran off a 4-1 run to take a 7-4 lead. Armstrong bashed one in front, forcing Gigi Meyer into a blocking error and the Hatters were just five points away from victory with a 10-6 lead, but Stetson became shaky and committed several errors to make it a 10-9 affair. Later, the Eagles forced Armstrong to go long and came all the way back to win the match 3-2 with a 15-12 fifth set victory.
“It creates some separation between us and Stetson,” Botsford said.