LAKELAND, FL - Florida Southern College volleyball won its 20th-straight match, 3-0, over Saint Leo on Friday night in the NCAA South Region semifinals to advance to their third consecutive regional championship match. The No. 21 Moccasins (27-6) eliminated the No. 23 Lions (23-7) from the South Regional for the second-straight year by scores of 25-21, 25-22, and 25-20.
The Mocs will take on No. 17 West Florida on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the right to advance to the round of eight and the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships, which will be held from Dec. 7-9 in Pensacola.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern was able to jump out to an early lead in the first set (2-0) before the Lions rallied back to take a 10-9 lead. The Moccasins would respond with a 5-0 run to make it 14-10 and force a Saint Leo timeout. After the break, the Mocs would score four of the next five points to extend their lead to 18-11 and force the Lions to take their second timeout. The Lions were able to get back into the mix by mounting a 10-5 run to cut the deficit to two (23-21), but the Moccasins scored the final two points to take a first-set win.
• In the second set, the Moccasins surrendered the first point to Saint Leo but scored three in a row to take the lead and never trailed again. Despite leading the rest of the way, Florida Southern did have to fend off a pesky Lion squad that trailed by just one (23-22) late in the set. Sydney Marshall and Anna Tovo would take matters into their own hands and closed out the set with back-to-back kills to take a 2-0 match lead.
• The third set featured an early back-and-forth battle before a 4-0 run by Florida Southern turned a 6-6 stalemate into a 10-6 advantage. Saint Leo took a timeout to gather itself and responded with five consecutive points of its own to take an 11-10 lead. The Mocs were able to score four of the next five points to go back up (14-12) and would never trail again. Florida Southern led by as many as four points at several points in the late stages of the set before Tovo recorded back-to-back kills to send the Mocs to the regional final.
• The Moccasins hit .277 on the attack while holding the Lions to just .143, and recorded eight blocks to Saint Leo's four. Tovo led all players with 17 kills, while Nicole Mattson recorded 10 and Marshall added seven. Bethany Besancenez tallied 41 assists and 13 digs, and Gabby Fresh finished with 10 digs. Rachael Martin had eight kills and a team-best five blocks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 27-33 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 26-26 in the South Regional. The Moccasins have won four NCAA South Region titles, with the most recent coming in 1991. FSC also moved to 74-9 all-time against Saint Leo, including 3-0 when facing the Lions in the NCAA Tournament.
• The Moccasins' current 20-match winning streak is now tied for the second-longest win streak in school history, matching the 1989 squad's win streak. The school record for consecutive wins is 33, set by the 1990 Moccasins.
• Besancenez pushed her career assist total to 3,754. She currently ranks sixth in school history and needs 61 more to move into fifth place. Tovo increased her career kill total to 1,557. She needs 134 more to tie head coach Jill Stephens for third in school history. Allie Geary increased her career block total to 371. She currently ranks sixth in school history in blocks.
• Florida Southern will face West Florida in the South Region Championship match on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Jenkins Field House. The Moccasins and Argonauts last played each other in the NCAA Tournament in 2011, when the Mocs took a 3-2 win over the Argos. It will be the second time that Florida Southern and West Florida have ever faced each other in the postseason.