LAKELAND, FL - Florida Southern College volleyball advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division II South Regional with a 3-0 win over Kentucky State on Thursday night at Jenkins Field House. The No. 21 Moccasins (26-6), who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed, topped the eighth-seeded Thoroughbrettes (26-13) by scores of 25-18, 25-20, and 25-19 to win their 19th-straight match and move on to the semifinal round for the seventh-straight year.
The Mocs will face the No. 22 Saint Leo, which earned the No. 5 seed and defeated fourth-seeded North Alabama (3-1), at 7:30 p.m. on Friday for the right to play in the South Region Championship match and a spot in the NCAA Elite Eight.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern got off to a fast start, snagging a 4-0 lead in the first set, and looked as if it might roll to an easy first-set win. However, Kentucky State battled back to pull within three (9-6) before the Moccasins slowly started to create separation with a 7-3 run that pushed their lead to 16-9. The Thoroughbrettes would rally again and trailed by just two (19-17) in the late stages. A 5-0 run by the Mocs gave Florida Southern a 24-17 cushion en route to a 25-18 set victory.
• In the second set, the Moccasins would lead from start to finish but were not able to put Kentucky State away until late. The Thoroughbrettes kept the score close until a late 3-0 run by the Mocs turned a 20-18 lead into a 23-18 advantage as Florida Southern grabbed a 25-20 second-set win and a 2-0 lead.
• The third and final set looked as if it might go to Kentucky State as KSU raced out to a 3-0 lead. The Moccasins scored four-straight points to take a 6-5 lead after trailing 5-2, but KSU responded with a 4-0 run of its own to make it 9-6 and force Florida Southern to take a timeout. FSC scored four-straight out of the break to regain the lead, and another four-point run gave the Mocs a 16-12 advantage. Kentucky State put together one final push, cutting the deficit to just two (17-15), but the Mocs hung on for a 25-19 set victory and a 3-0 sweep.
• Allie Geary led Florida Southern with 12 kills, while Nicole Mattson and Anna Tovo each had 10. Bethany Besancenez came away with 43 assists, six digs, and three kills. Sydney Marshall added nine kills and two service aces. The Moccasins hit .302 on the attack while holding Kentucky State to just .146. The Thoroughbrettes did finish with a 9-4 edge in blocks, but the Mocs had a 43-38 edge in digs.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Thursday's meeting was the first-ever between Florida Southern and Kentucky State. The Moccasins improved to 26-33 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 25-26 in the South Regional. Florida Southern has now appeared in 31 NCAA Tournaments and is hosting the South Regional for the first time since 1990. The Moccasins have won 26 games for the first time since 2007 when they finished 26-9. The Mocs' current 19-match winning streak is the most since 1990 when Florida Southern won 33-straight matches.
• Besancenez pushed her career assist total to 3,713. She currently ranks sixth in school history and needs 102 more to move into fifth place. Tovo increased her career kill total to 1,540. She needs 151 more to tie head coach Jill Stephens for third in school history. Allie Geary increased her career block total to 369 to move into sixth place in school history.
• Florida Southern will face No. 22 Saint Leo at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The Lions are the No. 5 seed in the NCAA South Regional. The Mocs are 73-9 all-time against the Lions, swept the season series against Saint Leo, and are looking to improve to 3-0 all-time when facing the Lions in the NCAA Tournament. Florida Southern knocked Saint Leo out of last year's NCAA South Regional in the first round.
• The winner of Friday's contest will face either second-seeded Palm Beach Atlantic or the No. 3 seed West Florida in the South Region Championship match at 7 p.m. on Saturday.