LAKELAND - Less than 24 hours after having its 11 match win streak snapped with a four-set home loss against top-ranked Tampa, 17th-ranked Florida Southern began another win streak by posting a three-set victory over Eckerd (25-16, 25-20, 25-23) in Sunshine State Conference action at Jenkins Field House.
With Saturday's victory, the Moccasins improved to 19-5 overall on the season and 10-2 in the SSC to remain in second place in the league standings with two weeks remaining in the regular season. The Mocs are now three games in front of third place Saint Leo and Rollins, as they both have 7-5 records in league play. UT sits atop the conference standings with a perfect 11-0 record.
In Saturday's match, defense ruled as both team's offenses struggled with consistency as the two teams hit a combined .081 in the match that lasted a little over 90 minutes. The Mocs, who entered the game second in the SSC and ninth nationally in hitting percentage at .263, finished with a .103 attack percentage, while Eckerd (12-14 overall, 3-10 SSC) finished with an .059 hitting percentage.
"Last night's match with Tampa was very emotional and today's match certainly wasn't one of our better performances," Moccasin head coach Jill Stephens said. "We played great defense and struggled a little bit offensively, but in the end we were able to take care of business."
The Mocs defense recorded 65 digs and outblocked the Tritons, 9-5 on the day. Additionally, the Mocs forced Eckerd into a total of 40 errors for the match, including 21 attack errors and 11 service errors.
Leading the way defensively for the Mocs was senior libero Catherine Brusie (North Branch, Mich.) as she finished with a match-high 19 digs and eclipsed the 1,000 career dig mark as a Moccasin. She entered Saturday's action needing just 13 digs to become the 17th member of the school's 1,000 Dig Club. She has now recorded 1,006 career digs in 60 matches as a Moccasin and in her four-year college career she has now recorded 1,946 digs. Brusie played her freshman and sophomore seasons at Winthrop University.
In addition to Brusie's 19 digs, sophomore outside hitter Brindl Langley (Camas, Wash.) added 17 digs, while redshirt senior setter Ali Skayhan (Beaverton, Ore.) chipped in with 12 digs and added 30 assists for her team-leading 13th double-double of the season. At the net, the Mocs got five blocks, including two solo blocks from sophomore middle blocker Rachel Mostert (Clearwater, Fla.) and three assisted blocks from junior right side hitter Kendall Marotti (LaBelle, Fla.).
On offense, the Mocs finished with 34 kills as a team as Marotti and senior outside hitter Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Ky.) led the way with seven kills apiece. Mostert and Langley added six kills in the win. Only four Mocs hit over .200 for the match as Mostert hit a team-high .455, while junior middle blocker Kayshia Brady (Welaka, Fla.) hit .250 to snap her streak of 12 consecutive matches of hitting over .300. Langley hit .211 and Marotti finished with a .208 hitting percentage.
"I thought Eckerd played great defense tonight and they served tough and got us out of system a lot," the Moc coach added.
In the first set, the Mocs jumped out to an early 6-2 lead and led 10-4 when the Tritons used a 3-2 scoring run to pull within 12-7. The Mocs, though, would answer with an 8-4 run capped by a Stromberg kill to push its lead to 20-11. After Eckerd scored two straight points to drop FSC's lead to 20-13, the Mocs would close the set on a 5-3 run to cap its 25-16 win. In the set, the Mocs hit .125 and held the Tritons to a -.026 hitting percentage.
Trailing 1-0 in the match, Eckerd jumped out to an early 5-3 lead in the second set and led 7-4 when the Mocs used a 6-1 run keyed by three Mostert kills to take a 10-8 advantage in the set. Eckerd would score two straight points to tie the set at 10, before the Mocs answered with a 5-2 flurry to take a 15-12 lead. The Tritons, who have now dropped four straight matches, would score three straight points to retie the set 15. FSC would respond again as they scored five of the next seven points to push in front 20-17. The Tritons once again would score two consecutive points to push within 20-19, before the Mocs closed out the set by scoring five of the final six points to post a 25-20 win and take a 2-0 lead in the match. Both teams hit under .200 in the set as FSC hit .195 and Eckerd hit .158.
In the third set, the Mocs scored the first three points and led 9-2 when the Tritons responded with an 8-2 run capped by Lauryn Nelson kill to pull within 11-10. The Mocs would then answer with a 6-3 run that began with a red card issed to Eckerd's Kaitlyn Sibson and was capped by a solo block from freshman middle blocker Allie Geary (Deland, Fla.) to give the Mocs a 17-13 lead. The Tritons, though, wouldn't go away without a fight as they used a 6-4 run to pull within 21-19. After a kill by Langley gave the Mocs a 22-19 lead, Eckerd would score four of the next six points to pull within 24-23, but a kill from Langley sealed the 25-23 set win. In the third set, both teams struggled offensively as FSC hit .000 and Eckerd hit .049.
Eckerd, who recorded 28 kills in the match, was paced offensively by nine kills from Nelson, while three Tritons recorded four kills in the loss. On defense, the Tritons got 17 digs from Sibson and 11 digs and 10 assists from Emily Schadow.
The Mocs will conclude its three-match homestand on Tuesday, Nov. 4 as they host 19th-ranked Palm Beach Atlantic in a 7 p.m. non-conference match at Jenkins Field House. FSC collected a come-from-behind five-set win over the Sailfish in West Palm Beach on Oct. 13. It will mark the final non-conference match of the regular season for the Moccasins.