LAKELAND - Florida Southern Volleyball puts its nine-match winning streak on the line Friday evening as the Moccasins travel to Tampa to face the seventh-ranked Spartans in a 7 p.m. match at the newly renovated Bob Martinez Athletics Center on the UT campus.
The Mocs enter the match sporting a 10-4 overall record and are 2-0 in Sunshine State Conference play after picking up back-to-back wins last weekend at home over Lynn and Barry to open league play. FSC, Tampa and Eckerd are the only remaining undefeated teams in SSC play.
"Our team has continued to get better and improve each day since the season started," Mocs head coach Jill Stephens said. "Every time you step on the floor in this league it is going to be a battle. Every team is very tough and competitive."
The match with Tampa will be the Mocs third true road match on an opponents home court and its 12th match away from home this season. FSC is 1-1 on opponents home courts this season and is 8-3 overall away from home as they have won seven straight matches on the road since falling in four sets to Cal State-L.A. on Aug. 31 in its final match at the season opening Western Oregon Classic in Monmouth, Ore.
Friday's match-up marks the 111th meeting all-time in the series between the two I-4 corridor rivals. Tampa holds a slight 58-52 edge in the series and the Spartans have won eight straight matches in the series since the Mocs earned a 3-0 win in Lakeland in 2008. The Mocs haven't earned a win in the series at UT since the 1994 season a span of 21 consecutive matches.
Meanwhile, Tampa will be making its home debut in the match as the Spartans have played its first 11 matches this yeat away from home. UT is sporting a 9-2 record and have won three straight matches overall since suffering a three-set loss to then 14th-ranked West Texas A&M at the Colorado Premier Challenge on Sept. 8. The Spartans other loss was five-set setback against then 10th-ranked Indianapolis at the season opening UWF Invitational in Pensacola.
UT, who was picked to repeat the SSC Champions in the league's preseason polls, opened league play with 3-0 SSC victories at both Rollins and Florida Tech last weekend. The win streak began with a four-set win at Flagler on Sept. 18. The Mocs defeated Flagler in four sets at the South/Southeast Region Challenge in Savannah, Ga., on Sept. 14.
"Tampa is one of the premier teams, not only in this league and region, but in all of Division II volleyball," the Mocs coach added.
The Mocs winning streak has been aided by the strong play of senior outside hitter Anne Pietkiewicz (Winter Park, Fla.), sophomore outside hitter Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Kent.), sophomore right side hitter Gabby Fernandez (Tampa, Fla.) and junior setter Ali Skayhan (Beaverton, Ore.).
Over her last nine matches, Pietkiewicz, who was named the SSC Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 17, is averaging 3.06 kills and 2.39 digs per set and is hitting .275 and has had two double-doubles, while Stromberg is averaging 2.97 kills and 3.29 digs per set and has had seven service aces, 13 blocks and three double-doubles and Fernandez is averaging 2.73 kills per set and is hitting .206. Skayhan, who is the reigning SSC Offensive Player of the Week after recording just the fourth triple double in the Mocs win last Friday over Lynn, is averaging 1.62 kills, 2.45 digs, 0.48 aces and 10.15 assists per set and is hitting a team-best .491. In addition, she has added three double-doubles and the triple-double against Lynn.
Other key performers for the Mocs during the winning streak include freshman libero Arielle Fernandez (Pacifica, Calif.) and senior middle blocker Morgan Kosterlitz (Dunedin, Fla.). Over her last nine matches, Fernandez, who was named the SSC Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 17, is averaging 3.86 digs per set and has double digits in digs in seven of nine matches, including a career-high 21 digs against Armstrong Atlantic, while Kosterlitz is averaging 0.88 blocks per set and has recorded 30 kills and is hitting .282.
Tampa is led by the play of senior middle blocker Danielle Selkridge and senior outside hitter Jessica Yingling. Selkridge is averaging 3.17 kills and 1.23 blocks per set and is hitting a team-best .412, while Yingling is averaging 3.05 kills and 3.10 digs per set and is hitting .282. As a team, the Spartans are hitting .273 and are averaging 2.65 blocks and 16.88 digs per set.
Following Friday's match with Tampa, the Mocs will return home to Jenkins Field House on Saturday to host Eckerd in a 4 p.m. SSC match. Eckerd (8-5 overall, 2-0 SSC) plays at Saint Leo (6-4 overall, 0-2 SSC) on Friday before traveling to Lakeland.