MONMOUTH, Oregon – Florida Southern Volleyball opened the 2012 season here Thursday by dropping both of its matches on the first day of the season-opening Western Oregon Classic held at WOU’s New P.E. Building.
FSC opened the season with a hard-fought four-set loss in its opener to Western Washington (19-25, 27-25, 17-25, 18-25), before falling to host, Western Oregon (24-26, 23-25, 18-25) in the final match of Thursday’s first round.
For the two matches on Thursday, sophomores Gabby Fernandez (Tampa, Fla.) and Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Kent.) each recorded double-doubles and combined for a total of 56 kills and 56 digs. In the opener against WWU, Fernandez and Stromberg combined for 35 kills and 26 digs and then they combined for 21 kills and 30 digs against WOU.
In the opener against WWU, the Mocs, who received seven votes in the Preseason AVCA Division II Coaches’ Poll, was paced offensively by Fernandez and Stromberg as they combined 35 of FSC’s 54 kills in the match.
Fernandez had a double-double of 20 kills and 15 digs, both of which were career highs and Stromberg added a double-double of 15 kills and 11 digs. Both Fernandez and Stromberg earned All-Tournament Team honors at last season’s NCAA D-II South Regional after helping lead the Mocs to the regional semifinals.
In addition to Fernandez and Stromberg, junior setter Ali Skayhan (Beaverton, Ore.) posted a double-double of 42 assists and 14 digs in her home state.
In the first set, FSC never led, but forced five ties, before WWU, who earned 20 votes in the Preseason AVCA Poll, scored eight of the sets final 11 points to post the 25-19 win.
FSC jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the second set and led 20-15 before the Vikings used an 8-3 run to tie the set at 23. Stromberg give the Mocs a 24-23 lead on a kill, before WWU scored two straight points to take a 25-24 lead. From that point, FSC scored three straight points, including ending the set on a kill by Fernandez to tie the match.
WWU, who were picked as the preseason favorite in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the third set. The Mocs would pull within 14-8 on a kill by Fernandez, before the Vikings pushed its lead to as much as nine points on two occasions en route to earning the 25-17 victory.
In the fourth and final set, the Vikings jumped out to a 20-12 lead, before FSC used a 4-0 run highlighted by two kills from Stromberg and capped by a Fernandez kill to pull within 20-16. WWU, though, would hold on as they scored five of the final seven points to post the 25-18 win and seal its seventh consecutive season opening victory.
Kayla Erickson and Marlayna Geary had recorded 16 kills in the win for the Vikings. In addition, Samantha Hutchinson added 30 digs and Geary finished with 15 digs for WWU’s lone double-double.
Both teams recorded 80 digs in the match as sophomore defensive specialist Lauren Tekavec (Colorado Springs, Colo.) had a career-high 17 digs, while senior outside hitter Anne Pietkiewicz (Winter Park, Fla.) added 16 digs.
The Mocs finished the match with a .171 hitting percentage, but were outblocked, 10-4 and committed 26 attack errors and had nine service errors in the opener. WWU hit .299 as a team and recorded 11 attack errors and seven service errors.
Meanwhile, in the match against WOU, the Mocs jumped out to a 10-7 lead following a kill by Fernandez in the first set, before the Wolves took its first lead of the set at 23 following an attack error by the Mocs. Back-to-back kills by Pietkiewicz and Fernandez retied the set at 24, before the Wolves scored the final two points to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
In the second set, WOU scored the first point, before FSC used a 5-0 run to push in front 5-1. WOU, though, would respond by scoring 10 of the next 15 points to take an 11-10 lead. The Wolves lead eventually grew to 15-12, before FSC used an 11-6 run capped by a Fernandez kill to take a 23-21 lead. From that point, the host team scored the final four points, including scoring the final three points of the set on Moccasin errors to take a 2-0 lead.
Unlike the first two sets, the third set was dominated mostly by the Wolves as they jumped out to an 11-6 lead. FSC, who opens the season 0-2 for the first time since the 2003 squad opened the season losing its first eight matches, pulled within 12-9, but could get no closer as WOU eventually extended its lead to 23-16.
Fernandez led the way with 11 kills and added 13 digs, while Stromberg had 10 kills and 17 digs in the loss. Skayhan continued her solid play in her home state as she recorded nine kills, hit .583, had 28 assists and seven digs.
WOU was paced by eight kills apiece from Becky Blees and Samantha Ward. Reese and Krissi Kemper each added seven kills in the win\
For the match, FSC hit .151 and recorded a match-high 42 kills and 54 digs, but was outblocked, 8.5 to 3. Blees had six blocks to lead the Wolves.
The Mocs will conclude tournament action on Friday, Aug. 31 as they face Missouri S&T at 3 p.m. EDT and Cal State-L.A. at 10:30 p.m. EDT.