FORT MYERS, Fla.- The Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers were hoping that Tuesday was going to be a night to remember as they took on #17 St. Petersburg in their inaugural Suncoast Conference match. Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite as the Bucs were swept off the floor 3-0 by the Titans, dropping them to 8-5 on the year.
The match began inauspiciously for both sides as things opened with back to back service errors and remained even at 4-4 after some back and forth through the first eight points. A kill from Anna Leweling midway through the first gave the Bucs a three point, 12-9 lead, but that was short lived as St. Petersburg answered with four straight of their own to take a 13-12 advantage. It remained a one point game at 18-17 when an FSW service error gave the Titans the ball back and the Bucs never got close again as St. Pete closed out the set on a 7-4 run to take it 25-21 and grab a 1-0 lead in the match. While the score was close in the first, the stat line wasn't as St. Pete banged out 16 kills on 35 swings, good for a .314 hitting percentage while FSW managed just nine kills on 27 attempts to hit just .222.
The Bucs got off to a rough start in the second, falling behind 7-3 from the get go. They battled back though, eventually tying the score at 8 on a big block from Kianie Cummings and Marina Alonso in the middle. But just as soon as they got back into it, a St. Pete run opened up a four point cushion for the Titans that they would never relinquish again. FSW got it to 23-20 on a kill by Julia de Sa, but it was too little, too late as the Titans wrapped up another 25-21 victory to take the second and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match. FSW picked things up on the offensive end in the second, finishing off 12 kills on 30 swings, but St. Pete upped their output as well with 15 kills and a .355 hitting percentage to take the set.
With their backs to the wall, the Bucs didn't get off to the start they were looking for in the third, committing three straight errors to begin the period to fall behind 3-0 right off the bat. They recovered to even things up at 5 and the teams played even to 11-11 midway through the set. The score remained tied at 15 when a 4-0 St. Pete run gave the Titans their biggest lead to that point in the set at 19-15. Leweling tried to keep the Bucs in it with a pair of kills, but they never got closer than three as the Titans got the final blow with a crosscourt rip to take the third 25-20 and the match 3-0. Again FSW just couldn't put the ball on the ground, registering just eight kills in the set while hitting under .200.
The Bucs finished with just 29 kills on the night, their second lowest output of the season, while hitting under .200 for the second straight contest at .174. The one bright spot on the night for the Bucs was their block that finished with 11 rejections, led by career highs by both Yasso Amin with six and Leweling with four. Kellen Valentim also provided a bright spot for FSW off the bench, finishing with five kills on 10 attacks while also picking up two blocks in two sets played.
FSW drops to 8-5 on the year with all five losses coming to teams ranked inside the NJCAA's Top 20 this week. St. Petersburg improves to 6-1 on the year.
The Bucs will be right back at it on Thursday at home in Suncoast Credit Union Arena as they host #10 Hillsborough at 6 PM as they look to get even in conference play with a win.