LAKELAND, FL - Nicole Mattson posted a career-best 32 kills and Bethany Besancenez added a season-high 58 assists as Florida Southern College volleyball battle back from a 2-1 deficit to top visiting Eckerd, 3-2, in its Sunshine State Conference opener on Tuesday night at Jenkins Field House. The No. 21 Moccasins (6-3, 1-0 SSC) were forced to win two sets in extra points against the pesky Tritons (5-3, 0-1) to snag FSC's sixth-straight win and avoid its first home loss of the year.
Eckerd looked as if it might come away with a big win as it had a chance to close the match out at 24-23 in the fourth set, but three-straight points from the Mocs sent the match into a decisive fifth set and Florida Southern dominated the final frame to extend its home win streak to 21 straight matches. Southern will open the road portion of its SSC slate on Saturday at Saint Leo.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The Moccasins seized momentum early in the first set by building an 8-4 lead, but the Tritons stormed back with an 11-6 run to jump in front by one point (15-14). Things looked to be in good shape for Florida Southern, which responded with four-straight points of its own and served for set point at 24-22, but Eckerd scored five of the next six points to slip away with a 27-25 first-set win.
- In the second set, FSC would lead for nearly the entire time until a 4-0 run by Eckerd in the late stages would turn a 17-14 Florida Southern lead into an 18-17 deficit. Trailing by two (24-22) and in danger of going down 2-0 in the match, it was the Mocs who battled back to tie things at 24-24 and scored three-straight points after the Tritons went up 25-24 to snag a thrilling come-from-behind victory to take a 27-25 set win and tie things at 1-1.
- The third set was a seesaw battle early as neither team could gain much separation. Florida Southern looked to have things well in hand with a 19-15 lead in the late going, but Eckerd again battled back and was able to come up with big points when it mattered most to take a 25-23 set victory and a 2-1 match lead.
- Florida Southern responded in the fourth set by jumping out to a 6-0 lead, but again the Tritons fought back to tie things at 13-13 as part of a 7-0 run that eventually led to a 15-13 Eckerd advantage. It looked as if Eckerd would pick up a huge early-season win as it led 24-23 with a chance to slam the door shut, but Mattson laid down two-straight kills and the Tritons committed an attack error on set point to give Southern a 26-24 win and force a fifth and final set.
- After trailing 4-3 in the early stages of the final set, the Mocs went out a 6-1 run to take a 9-5 lead and seize all the momentum. A 4-0 run later in the set made it 13-6 and Florida Southern was never really in danger from there as it grabbed s 15-9 fifth-set win to take the match by a 3-2 final.
- Mattson's 32 kills came on the strength of a .289 attack percentage. She also added 22 digs, one ace, and one block assist to her stat line. Besancenez had 13 digs, two kills, and two blocks to go along with her 58 assists, while Rachael Martin posted 17 kills and Gabby Fresh had 24 digs. After hitting just .108 in the first set, the Mocs finished better than .200 the rest of the way including attack percentages of .289, .250, and .550 over the final three sets to finish at .251 for the match. FSC held Eckerd to just .196 on the attack, but the Tritons did finish with an 11-6 edge in blocks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 74-10 all-time against Eckerd and has won each of its last five home contests against the Tritons. The win was the 21st straight home victory dating back to last season and marked the Moccasins' 13th-straight home win in conference action, a streak which dates back to 2016.
- Besancenez increased her career assists total to 4,311 as she continues to inch closer to Jordan McAfee's school record of 5,729. Mattson pushed her career kills total to 1,294 to move into ninth place in program history. Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Mattson was named as the Sports Imports/AVCA Division II National Player of the Week for her performance last weekend. Her 32 kills on Tuesday are tied for seventh-most in a single match and are the most since Beverly Stasis had 33 against Florida Gulf Coast on Oct. 5, 2004.
- Florida Southern will head to Saint Leo for its first SSC road contest at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The match is the first of three-straight on the road, which includes trips to Lynn (Sept. 14) and Barry (Sept. 15). The Mocs close out the month with four-straight home contests, including a showdown with No. 4 Palm Beach Atlantic on Sept. 28.