03 Oct Dramatic Five-Set Rally Over North Florida Keeps Volleyball Unbeaten In ASUN Play
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After falling behind by two sets, the FGCU volleyball team rallied to take the next three sets in a 3-2 victory (15-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-13) over North Florida to remain unbeaten in league play and extend its win streak to six matches. The Eagles improved to 13-4 overall and 5-0 in the ASUN, while the Ospreys fell to 14-2 overall (4-1 ASUN).
“What a fun match! That was such a great effort by both squads and it really lived up to the hype. There was a lot to like tonight, but without question, the thing I liked he most was the competitive response our players showed after UNF really controlled much of the first two sets. I thought our execution slowly kept improving throughout and we found some things we could lean on as the match progressed,” said head coach Matt Botsford.
The Eagles were led by the trio of Skylar English who had a match-high and season-best 17 kills, Erin Shomaker who had 14 kills and eight blocks, and Cortney VanLiew who posted a double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs.
“Skyler was just phenomenal and had a major impact in the match swinging back into our favor – she took some pretty big time swings from a freshman,” said Botsford. “Erin did such a great job turning things around after a slow start. That was really indicative of her maturity and growth as a player.”
VanLiew extended her program record for career kills to 1,526 while adding to her total for digs giving her 1,013. On Friday, she became the third player in program history to post 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs joining Amanda Carroll and Brooke Youngquist Sweat.
“Cortney was big in key moments for us and really stabilized first touch while providing a nice spark in the offensive end,” said Botsford.
The Eagles hit .275 for the match compared to .244 for North Florida. Though FGCU struggled offensively in the first two matches with a combined 20 kills and 13 attack errors, the Eagles began to turn the tide in the third and fourth sets hitting .500 and .452, respectively, with a total of 36 kills and three errors.
At the net, FGCU held an 11-to-6 advantage in blocks, while UNF had a 5-to-3 edge in aces.
Solimar Cestero led UNF with 15 kills followed by Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana who had 14 kills. Gabby O’Connell had a double-double with 11 kills and 16 digs.
The Ospreys looked to be in early control of the match after taking the 25-15 win in set one and a 25-21 win in set two.
In set three, the Eagles were able to go up by as many as four early, 11-7. Back-to-back points for FGCU extended that lead to 19-13 before the teams traded points the rest of the way.
Set four saw the teams trade points and runs early. With the Eagles holding an 18-17 lead, FGCU scored five straight to take control. Kills by Shomaker, VanLiew, and Juliana Lentz along with two UNF errors gave FGCU control of the set, 23-17, before closing it out over the next three points.
The fifth set again began with each side trading points before kills by Shomaker and VanLiew put the Eagles up 9-8. A pair of back-to-back points put FGCU up 13-10 before UNF scored three of the next four to make it 14-13. VanLiew finished off the match with a kill for the win.
The Green and Blue will return to home action for the first time in over a month when FGCU hosts Kennesaw State on Friday, October 8 and Liberty on Sunday, October 10. Single game and group tickets are still available by calling 866-FGCU-TIX, visiting www.FGCUTickets.com, or at the Alico Arena Ticket Office.
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Matt Botsford is in his eighth season as head coach of the FGCU women’s volleyball program in 2021 after being hired on Feb. 10, 2014. In his tenure, Botsford-led teams have compiled a 169-56 (.751) record overall, including an 85-19 (.814) record in ASUN play. Including this past year’s unprecedented spring season, he has taken the program to heights it has not seen in the Division-I era (2007-present) – registering at least 20 wins overall in five of the past six seasons and at least 10 wins in conference play every season. In 2018, he led the program to its first regular season championship since 2012 (fourth overall) and its first-ever ASUN tournament title, NCAA tournament appearance, NCAA tournament win and victory over a ranked team. His first two campaigns resulted in ASUN regular season runner-up finishes, and the following two saw the Eagles advance to the tournament championship and now the team has won three straight regular season titles, including a division title and ASUN tournament runner-up finish in the spring 2021 season. On Sept. 10, 2016, Botsford led his team to a five-set win over Indiana in Alico Arena, which signified the program’s first-ever win over a team from a Power-5 conference. In 2018, he led the team to a win over Miami (Fla.) – the program’s first-ever road Power 5 win, and the Eagles followed that up with a straight-set win over the Hurricanes at a neutral site in 2019.
FGCU Athletics sponsors events in November and April to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.
FGCU teams have combined to win an incredible 85 conference regular season and tournament titles in just 14+ seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just nine seasons of D-I postseason eligibility, the Eagles have had a combined 42 teams or individuals compete in NCAA championships. Eight FGCU programs have earned a top-25 national ranking in their respective sport – including women’s basketball (No. 21, 2020-21), beach volleyball (No. 20, 2021) and both men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s soccer (2018) as three of the most recent. In 2016-17, the Green and Blue posted a department-best sixth-place finish in the DI-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cup and top-100 showing nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS institutions. In 2018-19, the Eagles had an ASUN and state of Florida best seven teams earn the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award for their Academic Progress Rate in their sport. FGCU also collectively earned a record 3.50 GPA in the classroom in the fall 2020 semester and has outperformed the general University undergraduate population for 24 consecutive semesters. The 2019 Fall, 2020 Spring, 2020 Fall, and 2021 Spring semesters each saw another milestone reached as all 15 programs achieved a 3.0-or-higher team GPA in each. The Eagles also served an all-time high 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – being recognized as one of two runners-up for the inaugural NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.
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