LAKELAND - Florida Southern put an exclamation point to the 2014 regular season here Friday evening as the 14th-ranked Moccasins posted a four-set victory over Rollins (23-25, 25-17, 25-14, 25-11) in Sunshine State Conference play on Senior Night at Jenkins Field House.
Prior to the beginning of the match, the Moccasins honored its five member senior class in a pre-match ceremony. The five seniors on this year's team are libero Catherine Brusie (North Branch, Mich.), defensive specialist Jasmine Childress (Muncie, Ind.), setter Ali Skayhan (Beaverton, Ore.), outside hitter Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Ky.) and defensive specialist Lauren Tekavec (Colorado Springs, Colo.).
"It was an awesome win for our team and for our seniors. It was one of those pretty emotional nights and we're going to miss these kids a lot," Moccasin head coach Jill Stephens said following her team's 15th home win of the season as they went 15-1 at home on the year. "Most of them have been in our program for four years and five with Ali.
"Just an incredible group of young women."
With the victory, the Mocs improve to 24-5 overall on the season and finish SSC play in second place with a 14-2 record. Rollins fell to 16-14 overall and 8-7 in the league. In addition, the Mocs also extended its win streak to six straight matches and closed the regular season having won 17 of its last 18 matches with the only loss being a four-set setback at home on Halloween against No. 1 ranked Tampa. In fact, two of FSC's five losses came against Tampa, while its other three setbacks came at the Colorado Premier Challenge during the second week of the regular season. Since the Premier Challenge, the Mocs have posted a 20-2 record.
The 14 SSC wins are the most for the Moccasins since the 2006 squad posted a 15-1 league record en route to tying sharing the SSC title. Additionally, the 24 wins are the most for the team since the 2008 squad finished the season with a 25-9 overall record.
Friday's victory, which was its second this year over the Tars as the Mocs swept Rollins in Winter Park on Oct. 11, was aided by a strong defensive effort they held the Tars to an .037 attack percentage and also recorded 87 digs and six blocks. The Mocs also had 53 kills in the nearly two hour match and hit .215 as a team.
"We're excited to playing some pretty good volleyball heading into the postseason," Stephens commented. "We are playing pretty efficiently on offense and playing with some good flow to our game and we're looking forward to see who we get to compete against in the first round of the NCAA Tournament next week."
On the night, five Moccasins recorded at least 10 digs, including Brusie and Stromberg each posting 20 or more digs in the win. Brusie had 24 digs and Stormberg added 23 digs on the night. It marked the first time since the Lynn match on Oct. 24 that two Moccasins had recorded 20 or more digs in the same match. In that match, Brusie and sophomore outside hitter Brindl Langley (Camas, Wash.) each had 20 digs.
FSC's offense was paced by 11 kills apiece from juniors Kayshia Brady (Welaka, Fla.) and Kendall Marotti(LaBelle, Fla.), while freshman Anna Tovo (Aiken, S.C.) had 10 kills on the night. Brady and Marotti also combined to hit .394 in the win as Marotti hit .423 and Brady finished with a .364 attack percentage.
The win was also keyed from some strong serving from the Mocs as they finished with eight service aces and committed just three service errors. Childress and Marotti each had two aces, while four other Mocs recorded at least one ace.
Rollins jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the opening set and led 8-7 when the Mocs used an 8-3 run capped by block from Brady to push out to a 15-11 advantage. The lead would stay in the Mocs favor until Rollins used a 4-0 run to turn a 19-15 deficit into a 19-all tie. FSC, though, would respond with four consecutive points to push its lead out to 23-19. That rally seemed to ignite the Tars as they proceeded to close out the set by scoring the final six points to earn a 25-23 win. The final four points of the set by the Tars came as a result of Moccasin errors. In the set, the two teams combined to hit .093 and combined to record 56 digs as Rollins had 29 and FSC had 27 digs.
The Mocs would rebound in the second set as they would post a 25-17 win and even the match at a set apiece. In the second set, the Mocs led 6-3 early on and held a 12-7 lead when the Tars used a 6-2 run to pull within 14-13. The run was capped by three straight kills from Shannon McDonough. The Mocs, though, would respond with a 9-2 run capped by back-to-back aces from Childress to take a 23-15 lead. The Mocs would cement the 25-17 win on a kill from sophomore middle blocker Rachel Mostert (Clearwater, Fla.). In the set, the two teams again combined for almost 46 digs as Rollins had 24 and FSC had 22.
Rollins jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the third set and led 6-4 when the Mocs used a 15-2 scoring run highlighted by four kills from Brady to push its lead to 19-8. The Tars would score the next two points to drop FSC's lead to 19-10, but could get no closer as the Mocs scored six of the set's final 10 points to seal its 25-14 win and take a 2-1 lead in the match. In the set, the Mocs held Rollins to a -.022 hitting percentage and they hit .293 as a team.
The fourth set belonged entirely to the Mocs as they scored the set's first eight points, including seven consecutive with Marrotti serving, to jump out to an 8-0 lead. The lead would eventually grow to as much as 13 points at 18-5 following a kill by Tovo. The Tars would score three of the next four points to pull within 19-9, but could get no closer as the Mocs scored five of the set's final seven points to seal its 25-11 set win. In the fourth set, the Mocs offense hit .414 and held the Tars to an .038 hitting percentage.
Rollins was paced by 18 kills from Shannon McDonough, while Collyn Welsch finished the night with a match high 32 digs, including recording a combined 21 digs in the first two sets. For the match, Rollins had 87 digs as they had four players record at least 10 digs.
FSC will now await the NCAA Division II Volleyball selection show, which will be aired live online at www.ncaa.comon Sunday, Nov. 16 at 10 p.m. EST. The Mocs are expected to earn its fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth as they are currently ranked No. 2 in the latest South Regional rankings.
The South Regional Tournament will begin play next Thursday, Nov. 20 and run through Saturday, Nov. 22 at the site of the highest seed, which is expected to be Tampa as the Spartans won their 10th consecutive SSC title outright on Friday with a three-set home win over Barry and are currently sporting a 27-1 overall record and are 15-0 in the league heading into their regular season finale on Saturday with Nova Southeastern.