OCALA, Fla.- After earning a pair of wins on opening day of the 2019 NJCAA Volleyball season, the Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers came back to Earth on Saturday, dropping a pair of matches to #2 Miami Dade and Central Florida, two heavyweights that have combined to win 15 of their past 16 conference championships.
The Bucs fell behind early against the defending National Runners-Up Miami Dade, but bounced back to go on a 15-4 run highlighted by three straight kills from Amanda Mendes and Lexi Hurtado to take a commanding 16-9 lead in the first set. The Sharks came storming back though, tying the score at 20 after back to back attack errors by the Bucs late in the set. After an FSW timeout, the Bucs got two straight kills from Hurtado to regain the momentum and take a 22-20 lead, but a veteran Miami Dade team regrouped and outscored the Purple and Aqua 5-1 down the stretch to take the first set 25-23.
In the second set, Miami Dade raced out to an early 6-3 advantage and used an 8-1 run midway through the set to stretch their lead to 15-7. The Bucs never recovered from the slow start, using a pair of late kills from Laura Ferrao to make the score respectable, before going down 25-18 to fall behind 2-0 in the match.
With their backs to the wall, the Bucs showed some fight in the third, getting out to a 5-0 lead on the Sharks. Miami Dade came back to tie the score at eight and the set was nip and tuck from there. A kill from Kellen Valentim put FSW up 12-9 midway through the period and the Bucs remained in front until two straight errors allowed Miami Dade to knot the score up once again at 19-19. The teams traded the next six points to 22-22 when Marina Alonso found Ferrao in the middle again to break the tie and give the Bucs a 23-22 lead. An attack error by the Sharks gave FSW set point and Hurtado finished off a big set with her fifth kill to put it away for the Bucs as they took it 25-22 to send the match to a fourth set.
The fourth set was tight early on as Miami Dade held a one point lead at 6-5 at the 11 point mark. The Bucs and Sharks played even to the midway mark at 13-12, but a 4-0 run by Miami Dade after that gave the Sharks a 17-12 lead that they would never relinquish. The Bucs showed some fight late, but it was too little and too late as Miami Dade held them off for a 25-18 win to finish off a 3-1 victory in the match.
The Bucs hit just .184 in the loss, hurt by 19 losses in the match. Hurtado finished with 14 kills to lead the Bucs while Mendes chipped in 10 on the right side. Alonso had a team high 21 assists for FSW and Raquel Costa e Silva added 16. Three Bucs reached double figures in digs led by Viktoria Ivanova with 17 and Hurtado with 12 to notch her first career double-double. FSW had 12 blocks in the match against the Sharks powerful attack, getting seven from Kianie Cummings and six, including two solos from Valentim.
The Bucs didn't have much time to lick their wounds as they took on 4-0 Central Florida in the second match of their doubleheader. FSW found themselves down early on as the Patriots jumped out to a 7-3 lead to begin the match. The Bucs worked themselves back into things, cutting the Central Florida lead to just one at 13-12 on a kill from Julia de Sa midway through the set. A Patriot timeout killed the Bucs momentum and Central went on to score the next six straight to open up a 19-12 lead and FSW never recovered, falling 25-18 to fall behind 1-0 in the match.
FSW got off to another terrible start in the second, falling behind 6-1 before they could blink their eyes. Central held the five point advantage to the midway mark of the set at 12-7 and really started putting the screws to the Bucs in the middle portion of the set, taking their largest lead of the match at 21-11 late. The Bucs showed some live after finding themselves in the double digit hole, but they ran out of time in the end, dropping the set 25-17 as the Patriots grabbed a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
The Bucs finally got off to a good start in the third, racing out to a 9-2 advantage thanks in part to a pair of aces from Alonso early on. The continued to lead it big at 13-7, but that's when things went South for the Purple and Aqua. A big block on the outside got the Patriots back on track and they used it to start a 6-0 run to tie the score at 13. The Bucs struggles continued as Central started to grab the momentum, eventually taking a 20-15 lead on their fourth block of the set. A Patriot service error and a kill from Anna Leweling for FSW got the Bucs back to within three and an ace from the FSW freshman tied the set back up at 22 later on. The teams traded blows to 24-24 when a missed opportunity for the Bucs allowed Central to get their first match point of the afternoon. It didn't take them long to finish it off, finding a hole in the Bucs defense on the next play to seal the 26-24 win to sweep the match 3-0.
The Bucs hit a season low .168 in the defeat with almost all of their offensive production coming from their three outsides in De Sa, Hurtado, and Leweling who combined for all but eight of FSW's kills in the match. Alonso again led the Bucs with 13 assists and Ivanova paced the Purple and Aqua in digs with 11 in the loss.
The Bucs close the weekend at 2-2. Things won't get any easier for them in their next outing as they take on Daytona State and #7 Polk State, two teams that combined to go 7-0 opening weekend, in day one of Polk's Invitational Tournament next Friday.