Florida Southern Volleyball opened the 2012 season here Thursday afternoon by falling four sets to Western Washington (19-25, 27-25, 17-25, 18-25) in the first of four matches in the season opening Western Oregon Classic held at WOU’s New P.E. Building.
The Mocs, who received seven votes in the Preseason AVCA Division II Coaches’ Poll, was paced offensively by the play of sophomores Gabby Fernandez (Tampa, Fla.) and Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Kent.) 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.
FSC returns to action later tonight in the WOU Classic as they as face the host school, Western Oregon, at 10:30 p.m. EDT.