TAMPA - Florida Southern concluded play here Saturday afternoon in the Red Elephant Cafe South Region Crossover Tournament hosted by Tampa by falling in three hard-fought sets to Christian Brothers (25-27, 23-25, 25-19) at the Bob Martinez Athletics Center.
The Moccasins, who went 1-2 at the South Region Crossover event to drop its season record to 15-9 overall, struggled to find some offensive rhythm without one of its top offensive weapons, sophomore outside Kate Stromberg (Lexington, Kent.), who sat out Saturday's action due to an injury suffered during Friday's matches.
Stromberg entered Saturday's match with the Buccaneers is the Mocs team leader in kills (256) and kills per set (3.24 kps) and is second in both digs (251) and service aces (22).
Without Stromberg in the line-up, the Mocs offense was off its game as they finished with a .186 hitting percentage in the 75-minute match, but not one single player reached double-digits in kills. That marked just the third time this year the Mocs failed to have a player notch 10 kills in a match since the North Alabama match on Sept. 14. FSC had failed to have a player recorded double figures in kills against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez on Sept. 8.
In Saturday's match against CBU (14-6), junior middle blocker Dominique Hale (Kingman, Ariz.) led the way offensively for the Mocs with nine kills, a career-high tying five blocks and a .444 hitting percentage. In addition to Hale, freshman middle blocker Kayshia Brady (Crescent City, Fla.), freshman setter Kendall Marotti (LaBelle, Fla.) and junior setter Ali Skayhan (Beaverton, Ore.) each added six kills in the loss.
While its offensive game was off, the Mocs defense, that recorded 38 digs and eight blocks, kept the sets close and within reach. In addition to Hale's five blocks, sophomore right side hitter Gabby Fernandez (Tampa, Fla.) assisted on four blocks and senior outside hitter Anne Pietkiewicz (Winter Park, Fla.) had two blocks, while freshman libero Arielle Fernandez (Pacifica, Calif.) had 10 digs and sophomore defensive specialist Jasmine Childress (Muncie, Ind.) had nine digs.
The Mocs, who played their final non-conference match of the regular season on Saturday, got off to a strong start in the first set as they led 4-0 and held a 6-1 lead when the Bucs used an 11-5 run to take a 12-11 lead. The Mocs, though, would tie things up on a CBU error. The error jumpstarted an 11-7 run for the Mocs to help them take a 23-19 lead. CBU would respond with a 5-1 run to take a 25-24 lead. After another Buc error helped tie the set at 25, CBU would seal the win by scoring the final two points to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Much like the first set, the second set was another back-and-forth tilt as the set featured 12 ties and four lead changes. Neither team was able to maintain control of the lead until the Mocs turned a 6-5 deficit into a 10-7 lead. The Bucs, though, responded with a 10-4 run of their own to take a 17-14 lead. FSC used two kills from Hale and an attck error by Alexis Gillis to tie the set at 17. After CBU took a 19-17 lead, the Mocs came right back with kills from Marotti and Pietkiewicz to retie the set, but CBU would close the set scoring six of the set's final 10 points to seal the 25-23 win and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
In the third set, CBU scored the set's first five points and held a 7-2 lead when the Mocs used a 12-7 run to tie the set at 14 after Brady capped the run with a kill. Following Brady's kill, the Bucs used a 9-2 run to take a 23-16 advantage. The Mocs, though, made one more push as they scored three straight points to pull within 23-19 following an ace by Childress, but CBU would seal the victory by scoring the final two points.
The Bucs, who hit .231 in the win, was paced offensively by 14 kills from Gillis and 11 kills from Hailey Gillis. For the match, CBU had a 45-34 kill advantage over the Mocs.
FSC will return to Sunshine State Conference play next weekend as they hit the road to South Florida for back-to-back matches. The Mocs open the road swing on Friday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. in Miami Shores against Barry, before concluding the swing on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Lynn. The Lynn match, which is scheduled for 4 p.m., will be played at St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton.