LAKELAND - Florida Southern concluded play here Saturday in the South Regional Crossover at Jenkins Field House by posting an impressive three-set victory over Valdosta State (25-17, 25-12, 25-21) to finish the event with a 4-0 record.
With the victory, the 25th-ranked Moccasins improved to 16-4 overall on the season and extended its win streak to nine straight matches and upped its home court record to 11-0. VSU, who went 1-3 at the South Regional Crossover, fell to 14-6 overall.
"We're thrilled to come away with four wins this weekend. I thought we really did a good job executing, not only today, but the entire weekend," Moccasin head coach Jill Stephens said. "Valdosta has a good team that is really efficient offensively and I thought we did a good job taking them out of their system."
The Mocs offense was once again efficient against the Blazers as they finished the match hitting .359 as a team as five Moccasin hit over .300 on the night, including senior outside hitter Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Ky.) and redshirt senior setter Ali Skayhan (Beaverton, Ore.) each hit .500 in the win. For the four matches at the South Regional Crossover, the Mocs hit .337 as a team, which was second among the eight teams in the event as No. 1 ranked Tampa hit .382 in its four matches.
Three Mocs were named to the 13-player All-Tournament Team as Skayhan was named the MVP and was joined on team by junior middle blocker Kayshia Brady (Welaka, Fla.) and senior libero Catherine Brusie (North Branch, Mich.). In FSC's four matches on the weekend, Skayhan had 16 kills, hit .310, averaged 12.17 assists per set and added 35 digs, while Brady hit .513 as she had 20 kills and had 10 blocks and averaged 1.11 blocks per set and Brusie had 68 digs, averaged 5.67 digs per set and also added 16 assists and five aces.
"Ali did a tremendous job running our offense all weekend and getting the ball to the hitters in the right spot," the Mocs coach added.
Against VSU, Stromberg paced the Mocs offense as she recorded a match-high 14 kills as the Mocs finished with a 54 kills in three sets. In addition to Stromberg, junior right side hitter Kendall Marotti (LaBelle, Fla.) added nine kills, eight digs and it .444, while freshman outside hitter Anna Tovo had eight kills and hit .312 and sophomore outside hitter Brindl Langley (Camas, Wash.) contributed seven kills and 12 digs in the win.
"I thought our ball control was really good and we played consistent volleyball," said Stephens, who is now 310-154 in her 14th season at the helm of her alma mater.
Defensively, the Mocs outblocked VSU, 9-5, including Brady, who had three solo blocks in the second set, recording a season-high seven blocks, including five solo blocks and recorded 58 digs led by a match-high 23 from Brusie. VSU came into the weekend sitting 33rd nationally in blocking as they were averaging 2.24 blocks per set, while FSC was 36th nationally in blocks averaging 2.23 blocks per set.
Another advantage for the Mocs was service aces as they collected six in the match, while VSU finished with two, but they committed zero service errors. The Mocs had nine service errors.
VSU held an early 2-1 lead in the opening set before the Mocs used a 7-1 run capped by Brady kill to push out to an 8-3 lead. The Mocs lead would grow to 19-11, before VSU used a 4-2 run to pull within 21-15. That would be as close as the Blazers would get as FSC closed the set on a 4-2 run, including capping the 25-17 set win with a kill from Stromberg. In the set, FSC hit .357 and held VSU to an .054 attack percentage. Eight of VSU's 17 came as a result of Moccasin errors.
In the second set, the Mocs used a 9-2 run midway through the set to turn an 11-7 lead into a 20-9 advantage. The run was keyed by four kills from Mostert. A kill from Jenna Kirkwood brought VSU within 20-10, the Mocs used two straight solo blocks from Brady to key a 5-2 run to close the set and post a 25-12 win and take a 2-0 lead in the match. In the set, FSC hit .414 and held VSU to an .032 hitting percentage.
FSC opened the third set by scoring the first four points and led 7-4 when the Blazers used an 8-3 scoring run to take a 12-10 lead. The run was capped by kills from Kirkwood and Destiny Berry. The Mocs, though, would rally as they used a 6-4 run to take a 16-14 lead capped by an ace from Skayhan and a kill from Marotti. The Blazers would score two of the next three spots to pull within 17-16, before FSC used a 6-3 run to push its lead to 23-19. VSU would score two straight points to pull within 23-21, but would get no closer and back-to-back kills from Stromberg and Langley sealed the 25-21 set win. In the third, FSC hit .326 and recorded three of its six aces.
VSU was paced by Lea Jaklen's 10 kills, while Jessica Codato and Ashley Lala had 10 digs in the loss. The Mocs held VSU's All-Tournament selection Kirkwood to just five kills and an .000 hitting percentage. Kirkwood entered the match having recorded 45 kills in VSU's first three matches of the South Regional Crossover.
The Moccasin trio and Kirkwood were joined on the South Regional Crossover All-Tournament Team by Tampa junior right side hitter/middle blocker Marissa Lisenbee, Tampa junior outside hitter Berkley Whaley, Saint Leo senior outside hitter Lauren Campbell, Tampa senior setter Kahley Patrick, North Alabama senior outside hitter/middle hitter Megan Gorey, Lee University senior middle blocker Lauren Williams, Saint Leo senior libero Yaidmar Santiago, West Florida sophomore outside hitter/right side hitter Cora Bidlak and Eckerd junior outside hitter/right hitter Tjasa Kotnik.
FSC will now return to Sunshine State Conference play next week as they hit the road for matches at Florida Tech and Lynn. The Mocs open the second half of its SSC schedule on Thursday, Oct. 23 with a 7 p.m. match in Melbourne against Florida Tech, before traveling to Boca Raton for a 7 p.m. match on Friday, Oct. 24 at Lynn. FSC opened SSC play with three-set home wins over both Florida Tech and Lynn at Jenkins Field House.
"Every match is big when you're in league play and we have two big matches on the road next week to open the second half of conference play," said Stephens.
Here are the complete results from the South Regional Crossover:
Thursday, October 16
#25 Florida Southern 3, #22 West Florida 0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-18)
Friday, October 17
Saint Leo 3, #22 West Florida 2 (24-26, 25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 15-7)
Eckerd 3, Valdosta State 2 (25-22, 16-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-12)
#25 Florida Southern 3, North Alabama 0 (25-20, 25-14, 25-18)
#1 Tampa 3, Lee University 0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-19)
#22 West Florida 3, Eckerd 1 (25-27, 25-15, 25-20, 25-20)
Saint Leo 3, North Alabama 1 (16-25, 30-28, 25-13, 25-19)
#1 Tampa 3, Valdosta State 0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-18)
#25 Florida Southern 3, Lee University 0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-22)
Saturday, October 18
#1 Tampa 3, #22 West Florida 1 (26-24, 25-13, 25-27, 25-18)
Valdosta State 3, Saint Leo 1 (25-21, 25-23, 21-25, 25-19)
Lee University 3, Eckerd 1 (25-21, 26-24, 21-25, 25-23)
#1 Tampa 3, North Alabama 0 (25-21, 25-17, 25-16)
#25 Florida Southern 3, Valdosta State (25-17, 25-12, 25-21)
Saint Leo 3, Lee University 0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-22)