Freshman Gabby Fernandez, celebrating her birthday, came off the bench after the first set and matched her season-high of 16 kills to lead the Moccasins to a five-set win over West Florida, 19-25, 25-18, 18-25, 25-17, 15-13, at the NCAA South Regional at Tampa Thursday.
The win, FSC's fifth straight, keeps the Moccasins' season alive, putting them in Friday night's semifinals at 7:30 p.m. against top-seeded Tampa. Now 18-12 for the season, the Mocs halted fourth-seeded West Florida's 10-match winning streak and ended the Argonauts' season at 25-9.
Fernandez hit .406 for the match to go with her 16 kills. Seven of them came in the fourth set with the Moccasins facing a must-win situation, trailing two sets to one. Fittingly enough, it was also Fernandez who scored the final point of the match to seal the Mocs' win.
Lauren Huber had 12 kills for FSC and Kate Stromberg and Anne Pietkiewicz each added 10. Anna Niebuhr led the defensive effort with 20 digs. Ali Skayhan handed out 42 assists and tallied 15 digs.
West Florida started the match with five straight points and never trailed in winning the first set. After scoring the first three points of the second set the Moccasins did the same thing to even the match at one set each. UWF broke a 4-4 tie with seven unanswered points and went on to take the third set. Seven straight points by the Mocs to start the fourth set put them en route to claiming the set, as the Argonauts never got closer than four points. Neither team had a lead bigger than two points in the fifth set until the Mocs scored four straight points to overcome an 11-10 West Florida lead. After the Argonauts trimmed the lead to 14-13, Fernandez delivered the final point with her 16th kill.
Friday's semifinals will be an All-Sunshine State Conference affair, with Eckerd and Rollins meeting in the first match at 5 p.m., prior to the Mocs' match with Tampa. The winners play Saturday at 7 p.m. for the regional championship.
Complete information for the NCAA South Regional is available at this link: http://www.tampaspartans.com/page.asp?articleID=3247.