FORT MYERS, Fla.- If you just looked at Amanda Mendes and Anna Leweling's final stat lines from Florida SouthWestern's Suncoast Conference match Thursday at home against #10 Hillsborough, you would think that the Bucs would have had a pretty good chance to win. After all, the two freshmen combined for 28 kills and a .350 hitting percentage in just three sets against the Lady Hawks. Unfortunately, the rest of the FSW hitters combined for only 13 kills and a .041 hitting mark as the Bucs dropped a pair of sets 25-23 and the other 25-20 to drop to 8-6 overall and 0-2 to start their first Suncoast Conference campaign.
The first set was a good one throughout as Hillsborough jumped out to a 6-3 lead before FSW evened things up with three straight early on. The Bucs took a three point lead of their own through the middle of the set as Anna Leweling and Yasso Amin hammered balls to the floor, but a lull from FSW allowed the Hawks to tie the score at 19 after a 3-0 run. The score stayed tied at 22 six points later, but the state's leading hitter Isabel Martin broke the tie and the Hawks squeaked out a 25-23 win to give them a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second was back and forth early on with neither team leading by more than two through the first 25 points. That's when Hillsborough stepped on the gas, going on a 5-1 run to open up their largest lead of the night at 19-13. The Bucs fought back late, cutting the Hawk lead to just four, but they ran out of real estate for their comeback as an FSW service error abruptly ended the set at 25-20, giving the Hawks a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Bucs jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the third, but it didn't last long as Hillsborough came back to even things up at 11 as the midway point of the set approached. Moments later, back to back kills from Leweling and Julia de Sa gave the Bucs an 18-14 lead as they looked to extend the match to a fourth set. With the score 18-15, the Bucs thought they had a kill from Amin in the middle to make it 19-15, but instead, the officials conferred after the point and decided a ball early in the rally had hit the floor on the Bucs side of the floor, instead making it an 18-16 contest. The play shifted the momentum as Hillsborough used it to start a 3-0 run to even the score up at 18. The Bucs leaned back on Mendes and Leweling from there as FSW went from outside to right side for kills from the two, keeping the score tied at 23 with the game on the line. Martin's 14th kill of the night gave the Hawks match point and an attack wide from the Bucs sealed their fate as Hillsborough took the third 25-23 to wrap up a three set sweep of the Bucs.
Mendes and Leweling did the bulk of the work offensively for the Bucs, Mendes finishing with a match high 16 kills and Leweling with 12. Marina Alonso finished with a team high 20 assists while Raquel Costa e Silva added 15 off the FSW bench. Viktoria Ivanova posted a career high 20 digs in a solid effort in the back row for the Bucs libero while Kianie Cummings was in on all three of FSW's season low three blocks on the night.
The Bucs fall to 8-6 on the year with the loss and drop to 0-2 in their first two conference matches. #10 Hillsborough remains red hot, improving to 16-2 overall and 2-0 in Suncoast action with the win.
FSW will look for their first conference win of the season on Tuesday when they take the court again on the road in Bradenton where they will go up against State College of Florida in a 6 PM first serve.