WEST PALM BEACH, FL - Nicole Mattson, Buse Ene, and Rachael Martin each tallied double-digit kills as Florida Southern College volleyball took down No. 21 West Florida, 3-1, in the first round of the NCAA South Regional on Thursday at Rubin Arena. The Moccasins (22-10) took the first two sets from the Argonauts (25-8) and rallied back from a late three-point deficit to earn a 28-26 fourth-set victory to advance to their eighth-straight regional semifinal.
The Mocs, who entered the weekend as the No. 4 seed in the South Region, will take on either top-seeded Palm Beach Atlantic or No. 8 seed Spring Hill at 7:30 p.m. on Friday for the right to play in the regional title match on Saturday.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- The first set was neck-and-neck early on as the teams found themselves tied 10-10 in the early stages. Florida Southern was able to use a 4-0 run to gain some separation and take a 14-10 edge. West Florida responded with a 6-1 run of its own to take a 17-15 lead as the set drew to a close, but the Mocs caught fire and scored 10 of the next 12 points to take a 25-19 first-set win. Martin and Mattson each scored two of FSC's final five points to take a 1-0 match lead.
- Clinging to a slim two-point lead (11-9) early in the second set, the Moccasins went on a 6-1 run to take a 17-10 lead and rode that momentum to a 25-14 second-set win. After the scoring run gave the Mocs the edge they needed, Florida Southern never led by less than five points en route to a 2-0 match lead.
- The third set saw West Florida stay alive as the Argos overcame an early deficit to snag a 25-23 third-set win. Florida Southern looked as if it might roll to a sweep as it jumped out to a 7-3 lead, but the Argonauts were able to battle back to slice the deficit to one (13-12). The contest would stay within two points the rest of the way and was tied at 23-23 before UWF scored the final two points to push the match to a fourth set.
- The fourth set was a wild one that saw the lead change hands several times. Florida Southern scored the first three points and stayed in front until West Florida took its first lead of the set (10-9). Neither team was able to gain an edge until late in the set when the Argos scored three in a row to turn a 20-20 deadlock into a 23-20 advantage and pin the Mocs to the wall. However, Florida Southern staved off set point on three-straight times in the late stages and overcame a 26-25 deficit with three consecutive points to make the final 28-26. Mattson and Ene scored the final three points of the night, Mattson on a kill and an ace and Ene with the match-clinching kill.
- Florida Southern hit .251 on the attack while limiting West Florida to just .172, and finished with 11 blocks to UWF's seven. Mattson led all players with 22 kills, while Ene and Martin each finished with 12. Gabby Fresh (20), Makena Wilson (12), Ene (12), and Mattson (10) each tallied double-digit dig totals, and Bethany Besancenez had 55 assists and 12 digs. Southern finished with six service aces while the Argos tallied three.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 31-34 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 11-6 all-time against West Florida. The Moccasins have knocked the Argonauts out of the postseason in each of the past two seasons, downing UWF in last year's South Region title match. Thursday's match marked the 32nd time in program history that the Mocs have played in the NCAA Tournament, the fourth-best mark among all current NCAA Division II programs.
- Mattson increased her career kill total to 1,665 as she inches closer to third in school history in career kills. She needs 26 more to tie former Florida Southern head coach and all-American Jill Stephens for third. Mattson also pushed her career dig total to 1,303 and needs 20 more to move into a tie for eighth in the FSC record books.
- Besancenez has now tallied 5,267 career assists and 1,376 digs. She is second in school history in assists and seventh in digs. Besancenez needs 99 more digs to move into sixth place in school history.
- Florida Southern will face either Palm Beach Atlantic, the region's top-seeded team, or No. 8 seed Spring Hill in the South Region semifinals on Friday. The other semifinal features Barry and Tampa. The South Region championship match is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.