28 Aug Volleyball Goes 2-0 to Open Season Following Big Ten Win Over Rutgers
FORT MYERS, Fla. – Paced by a double-double from junior Erin Shomaker (Granville, Ohio/Granville HS) and a big game from sophomore Juliana Lentz (Miami, Fla./St. Brendan HS), the FGCU volleyball team (2-0) swept Big Ten foe Rutgers (1-1) 25-18, 25-14, 25-21 in the third match on the opening day of the Homewood Suites FGCU Invitational on Friday at Alico Arena. The win marked the second time in program history that the Eagles defeated a Big Ten team and represented the fifth all-time against a Power Five opponent.
“It’s exciting to get a win, let alone a sweep, of a Big Ten opponent – that says something about where we’re at this early even though we have a long way to go,” said head coach Matt Botsford. “I thought we did the right things at the right times to get the win tonight. I thought we put some pressure on them with what we were doing at the service line, but just as importantly, we handled their service pressure well.”
The Green and Blue entered the match with a prior victory against Rutgers which came on Sept. 16, 2011 when the Scarlet Knights were members of the Big East. FGCU’s other Big Ten win came against Indiana on Sept. 10, 2016. Friday’s game against Rutgers marked the first meeting against a Power Five program since the Eagles defeated Miami 3-0 in 2019 – the same season where FGCU knocked off Auburn 3-0 as well.
After picking up a 3-0 win over UMBC earlier in the morning, FGCU did not miss a beat in the night cap. Shomaker tallied 12 kills for the second straight match, while adding 10 digs for her first double-double of the season. Lentz had a big game as well with 10 kills on a .400 attack percentage. Graduate Cortney VanLiew (Seymour, Ind./Columbus East HS) was just shy of a double-double with eight kills (.350) and 12 digs. Senior Dana Axner (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman HS) led the Eagles with 16 digs, while senior Chelsey Lockey (Eaton, Colo./Eaton HS) assisted 37 of FGCU’s 41 total kills. Junior Aja Jones (Venice, Fla./Venice HS) anchored the defense with four blocks while recording four kills.
Rutgers, which defeated South Florida 3-0 in the second match of the day, was led by Anastasiia Maksimova who had eight kills and 10 digs and Beka Kojadinovic who tallied seven kills. Madyson Chitty had a match-high 17 digs, while Inna Balyko notched 26 assists.
The Eagles hit .254 for the match, including .440 in the second set, while Rutgers hit .070 on the evening. FGCU also held a 5-to-2 advantage in aces and an 8-to-6 edge in blocks.
In the first set, FGCU quick raced out to a 4-0 lead and then a 7-2 lead early. The Eagles extended it to 16-7 after recording six straight points. Rutgers was able to pull back within four down the stretch, 22-18, but a kill from junior Lauren Clark (Champlin, Minn./Champlin Park HS/Penn State) and back-to-back tallies for Shomaker gave FGCU the 25-18 win.
In the second set, the Eagles once again started fast taking an early 9-3 lead which held never fell to fewer than four for the rest of the match. FGCU notched six of the final seven points in the set including the winner from Shomaker giving the 25-14 score.
The third set was a back-and-forth affair until FGCU broke an 8-8 tie with a three-point run following a pair of attack errors and a service ace from Lockey. After the Eagles led 19-13, Rutgers scored the next four straight to pull within two. Up 21-19, a kill by Jones followed by two attack errors from the Scarlet Knights put the Eagles back up by five heading into the set point. Rutgers was able to score twice on back-to-back kills, but Shomaker picked up her third straight set-clinching kill in the match for the final 25-21 score.
The Homewood Suites FGCU Invitational returns to action on Saturday morning with UMBC taking on South Florida at 10 AM. Rutgers will then face UMBC at 2:30 PM before the Eagles host South Florida in the night cap at 7 PM. Tickets are being sold on a daily basis as opposed to match-by-match. Prices are $7 for adults, $5 for military and $5 for youth ages 4-12.
For complete coverage of the volleyball program, follow the Eagles on Twitter at @FGCU_VB, on Instagram at @FGCU_VB, on Facebook at /FGCUVolleyball and online at FGCUathletics.com. You can also sign-up to have news on FGCU volleyball or other programs delivered directly to your inbox by visiting www.fgcuathletics.com/email.
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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 159-53 (.748) record overall, including an 81-19 (.810) 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 13+ 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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