PENSACOLA, FL - Nicole Mattson and Anna Tovo combined for 39 kills, and Florida Southern College volleyball advanced to the NCAA Championship semifinals with a 3-1 win over sixth-seeded Cal State San Bernardino on Thursday at the UWF Field House. The No. 21 Moccasins (29-6) overcame a first-set loss to the Coyotes (24-8) to secure a spot in the round of four for the first time since 1991. Florida Southern, which entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, hit .307 on the attack and used a dominant second set to shift momentum its way en route to the win.
The Mocs will face No. 7 seed Gannon, which upset No. 2 seed Regis, at 6 p.m. (ET) on Friday for the right to advance to the NCAA Division II National Championship match. The championship contest is set for 6 p.m. (ET) on Saturday at UWF Field House.
HOW IT HAPPENED
• Florida Southern got off to a great start as both teams were on fire on the offensive side of the net early on. The Moccasins raced out to a 3-1 lead and stayed in front until midway through the set when Cal State San Bernardino tied things at 13-13. The teams would trade jabs over the next several points before FSC went on a 4-1 run to snag a 21-18 lead and put the Coyotes against the wall. Cal State San Bernardino struck for four-straight points to grab their first lead of the day at 22-21 and rode the momentum to a 25-23 first-set win.
• Trailing 1-0 after the first set, Florida Southern came out on a roll in the second. The Moccasins jumped out to a an early sizeable lead (10-5) and led by 10 points (17-7) before the Coyotes even hit 10 points of their own. The Mocs never led by less than nine the rest of the way and closed out the set out a 6-1 run to hand the Coyotes their worst set-loss of the season (25-11).
• In the third set, it was Cal State San Bernardino who set the tone early, as the Coyotes jumped on top early (11-7). However, Florida Southern was able to mount a 5-1 run to tie things at 12-12 and get itself back in contention. Trailing 14-13, the Moccasins scored two points to regain the lead and never trailed again. Although Cal State San Bernardino was able to tie things up on five occasions over the next several minutes, Florida Southern brought down the hammer with a 5-0 run to end the set and grab a 25-20 victory.
• After surrendering the first point of the fourth set to the Coyotes, the Moccasins scored two points in a row to take the lead and did not trail again until Cal State San Bernardino struck for four-straight to grab a 12-9 advantage an force an FSC timeout. The Coyotes did not lose steam, however, and were able to build a five-point lead (21-16) late in the set. That's when Florida Southern would make its move, scoring four in a row to pull within one (21-20) and riding the wave of momentum to a 26-24 fourth-set win to advance to the semifinals.
• Mattson led all players with 21 kills and collected 14 digs, while Tovo finished with 19 kills and 12 digs. Gabby Fresh had an outstanding defensive performance with 19 digs, while Sydney Marshall had nine kills and Allie Geary tallied five blocks. The Moccasins hit .307 on the day, committing just four attack errors in 47 attempts while holding the Coyotes to .185 on the attack. The Mocs also finished with a 13-3 advantage in total blocks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
• Florida Southern improved to 1-1 all-time against Cal State San Bernardino and 29-33 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. With the Moccasins' victory and Gannon's upset of No. 2 Regis, Florida Southern is guaranteed to finish no worse than fourth nationally, tying the best finish in school history. The Mocs are making their 31st appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
• Mattson increased her season kill total to 522, and needs just seven more to tie Dana Cozine for the 10th-best single-season total in program history. She has recorded 20 or more kills seven times this season. Tovo improved her career kill total to 1,593, fourth-most in school history, and recorded double-digit digs for the 22nd time this year. Geary improved her career block total to 379 and ranks sixth in school history in blocks.
• The Mocs won their 22nd-straight match dating back to the beginning of October. The win streak is the second-longest in school history. The 1990 Moccasins set a school record with 33-straight wins en route to a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Head coach Jill Stephens picked up her 395th career victory.
• Florida Southern will face No. 7 seed Gannon on Friday at 6 p.m. (ET) for the right to play for the NCAA Division II National Championship on Saturday. Fans can watch Friday's semifinal live by visiting NCAA.com.