LAKELAND - Florida Southern concluded the first weekend of Sunshine State Conference play undefeated as the Moccasins followed up its three-set win on Friday over Lynn with another three-set victory here Saturday afternoon over Florida Tech (25-19, 25-19, 25-14) at Jenkins Field House.
With the victory, the Mocs improved to 6-3 overall and 2-0 in the SSC and helped Moccasin head coach Jill Stephens achieve her 300th career coaching victory. In her 14 seasons at the helm of her alma mater's volleyball program, Stephens has compiled a 300-153 overall record and has led the Mocs to 11 NCAA Division II Tournament appearances, including three straight appearances in the semifinals of the South Regional Tournament.
Click here for the photo gallery on Facebook of the game ball presentation to Stephens by her team's seniors after earning her 300th career coaching win
"It is awesome to win 300 matches as a coach. It is a great milestone, but one that wouldn't have been achieved without all the players and coaches I have had the privilege to work with the last 14 years," Stephens said following the match.
Saturday's victory was FSC's fifth at home this season with all five of those wins coming in straight sets as the Mocs are 6-1 overall on the season in three set matches, including being 5-0 at home in those matches.
One night after hitting .354 as a team in dispatching Lynn in three sets, the Mocs offense wasn't as efficient against the Panthers as they finished the match with a .189 hitting percentage. While its offense wasn't as efficient as the night before, its defense and strong serving were the difference against Florida Tech (5-5, 0-2 SSC). In the win, the Mocs recorded 65 digs, eight total team blocks, held Tech to an .050 hitting percentage and tied a season high with eight service aces.
"Florida Tech is a tough team to play against, but I thought our team persevered today," said Stephens. "It is a good way to start to conference play when you can pick up back-to-back wins."
Despite hitting under .200 for the just the third time this season, the Mocs offense was balanced as senior outside hitter Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Ky.) led the way with nine kills and 12 digs and hit .292. In addition to Stromberg, junior middle blocker Kayshia Brady (Welaka, Fla.) had seven kills and two blocks, while junior right sitter hitter Kendall Marotti (LaBelle, Fla.) and redshirt senior setter Ali Skayhan (Beaverton, Ore.) each added six kills in the win.
Along with slamming home six kills, Skayhan also hit a team-best .667 and recorded her team leading seventh double-double as she had 25 assists and 10 digs.
Senior libero Catherine Brusie (North Branch, Mich.) was one of four Mocs to record double-digit digs as she had 19 and also recorded a career-high 5 service aces, while freshman middle blocker Allie Geary (DeLand, Fla.) posted a career-high five blocks in the win as she had one solo block and assisted on four blocks.
In the opening set, Tech scored the first point on a kill by Kim Juriga, before the Mocs used a 6-1 run to take a 6-2 lead. After Tech pulled within 9-8 following a kill by Marilyn Dick, the Mocs responded with an 11-7 run to push out to a 20-15 lead. The run was capped by back-to-back kills from Brady. After another Juriga kill pushed the Panthers within 20-16, the Mocs closed out the set scoring five of the final eight points to seal its 25-19 win. In the set, both teams hit under .150, but FSC recorded three aces, including two by Brusie.
FSC scored the first six points of the second set and led 13-6 when the Panthers used a 7-5 scoring run to pull within 18-13 following a kill by Juriga. The Mocs, though, would score three of the next five points to take a 21-15 lead. Tech wouldn't go away as they scored three consecutive points to drop FSC's lead to 21-18, before the Mocs scored four of the set's final five points to seal its 25-19 lead and take a 2-0 advantage in the match. In the second, the Mocs held Tech to a -.053 hitting percentage and had two aces and hit .150 as team.
Leading 2-0 in the match, the Mocs opened the third set by scoring nine of the first 11 points to a take a 9-2 lead. The lead would grow to as much as 15-6 following an ace by junior defensive specialist/setter Lauren Shlemon (Tampa, Fla.), before Tech responded with a 4-1 run to drop FSC's lead to 16-10. The Mocs would then coast the rest of the way as they closed out the set by scoring nine of the final 13 points, including Marotti sealing the win and Stephens' 300th career victory with a kill to post the 25-14 set win and earn the three-set victory.
The Panthers were paced by the play of Juriga as she recorded eight kills in the loss, while Milli Tapuskovic added seven kills, a match-high 19 digs and four blocks and Dick had five kills and eight digs for the match.
FSC will return to action next weekend as they hit the road for the first time in SSC play as they travel to St. Petersburg for a 7 p.m. match on Friday, Sept. 26 at Eckerd, before facing off against top-ranked Tampa in a 4 p.m. match on Saturday, Sept. 27 at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center on the UT campus.