JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- In a whirlwind 24 hour stretch for the Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers, they went from thinking that their season was over to earning their first FCSAA State Tournament victory after knocking off Florida State College at Jacksonville 3-1 in an elimination contest Friday night in Jacksonville.
Thursday night FSW thought they would be squaring off against Daytona State in the first round of the tournament on Friday afternoon, but Friday morning they were told that Miami Dade would be their opponent and then eventually Hillsborough. The Lady Hawks were a familiar foe for the Bucs who had seen HCC twice in Suncoast Conference action this season.
Expectedly the Bucs showed some rust early on and the 13th ranked Hawks took advantage, dominating the first set in route to a 25-15 win over FSW. The Bucs hit negative in the set with just eight kills and nine hitting errors, while managing to sideout on just 9 of 24 chances.
The second set was much closer as FSW went toe to toe with the Suncoast Conference Champs in a period that featured nine ties and four lead changes. It was 16-16 late in the set when things fell apart on the Bucs as three straight FSW errors jumpstarted a 9-2 sprint to the finish line for the Hawks as they took the set 25-18 and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
The third followed a similar script as after 40 points, the two were knotted squarely at 20. However, this time, it was a Hillsborough error getting the Bucs going as FSW reeled off the final five points of the third set to take it 25-20 and keep the match alive at 2-1.
But the Bucs couldn't maintain the momentum into the fourth as they fell flat, needing a late push just to reach double digits in a 25-12 defeat to give Hillsborough the match 3-1. For the second time in the match, the Bucs were in the red offensively, committing nine hitting errors while managing just four kills for a -.179 hitting mark.
After thinking their season was done and not practicing the week leading up to the State Tournament before getting the surprise call, the Bucs understandably struggled to find a rhythm, hitting just .038 on the match, their second worst effort of the year. The little offense they did have came from their outsides as de Sa put up a team best 11 kills while Anna Leweling had 10. Marina Alonso led FSW with 29 assists and Viktoria Ivanova did her best to keep them in it in the back row with a team high 21 digs. FSW put up respectable block numbers with 11 as a team led by five from Yasso Amin and four from Laura Ferrao, but Hillsborough recorded 15 stuffs including 10 solo blocks in the win.
There was no time for the Bucs to feel sorry for themselves though as just four hours later, they were on the court again, this time taking on the host squad, Florida State College at Jacksonville in an elimination contest.
The Bucs got off to a solid start, racing out to an early lead and never relinquishing it in a 25-17 first set victory to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second was back and forth early on with the two teams tied at 12 midway through the set. It was a 19-18 game later in the first when things fell apart on the Bucs as the Blue Wave rolled off six of the next seven points to take the set 25-19 and even the score at one set apiece.
De Sa came to life for the Bucs in the all important third, giving them an early 10-6 lead with a kill and then finishing off the Blue Wave with another at set point as the Bucs took it 25-22 to grab a 2-1 lead in the match.
FSW played solid again in the fourth, starting strong and holding a 15-11 lead to the midway point of the period. They didn't look back from there, smelling the finish line as they wrapped up a 25-19 set victory with a kill to win the match 3-1.
The victory was the first FCSAA State Tournament victory in program history for the Bucs and was also FSW Head Coach Thais Baziquetto-Allen's 100th career victory as a junior college head coach.
The Bucs remain as one of six teams to earn their way to day two of the tournament. They will now turn their sights onto Central Florida, who they split with during a regular season home and home. The Bucs and Patriots will square off at noon Saturday with the winner inching closer to a spot in the District Tournament and eventually the NJCAA National Tournament.