JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- The Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers saw their inaugural 2019 season come to a close this weekend, but not before making some noise and finishing fourth at the FCSAA State Tournament in Jacksonville. After splitting a pair of matches on the opening day of the eight team tournament, the Bucs pulled off the upset of the weekend with a 3-2 win over #14 Central Florida on Saturday before falling for the second time in as many days to #13 Hillsborough to draw their first campaign to an end.
The Bucs first test of the day was against #14 Central Florida. After splitting their two regular season matches, they again looked evenly matched through the first portion of the first set as they played to a 14-14 tie after 28 points. The team sides took turns going on mini runs from there as the Patriots pushed ahead by two before FSW did the same before eventually finding things tied back at 20 late in the set. The Bucs looked like they were in trouble as Central took a 23-21 lead, but a kill from Julia de Sa, followed by two straight hammers by Yasso Amin erased the deficit and gave FSW their first set point at 24-23. Central and FSW went blow for blow over the next four points to 26-25 when the Bucs stepped on the gas one final time, getting a kill from Anna Leweling to finish the Patriots off 27-25 and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second set was highly competitive early on as well as Central and FSW found themselves knotted at 9-9 after 18 points of action. A Buccaneer service error followed by three straight attack errors allowed the Patriots to take a four point lead and FSW never recovered from the mid-set run as Central closed the period on a 16-4 run to take it 25-13, evening the match at one set apiece.
The chess match continued between the Bucs and Pats in the third as neither side gained more than two point advantage at any point in time in the set. The score was tied at 17 when a 3-1 run gave Central a 20-18 lead, but FSW answered with the same run of their own to knot the score at 21. An FSW ace from Viktoria Ivanova and a Central attack error gave the Bucs a shot at the set, leading 24-22, but they couldn't close as the Patriots scored two straight to even things at 24. FSW pushed back ahead on a kill from Amin, but a service error allowed the score to be tied again at 25. A Central attack error gave the Bucs their fourth set point and this time they closed it out, using a Patriot attack into the net to take the set 27-25 and grab a 2-1 lead in the match.
Central Florida scored the first two points of the fourth set and never looked back. They pushed their lead to 7-3 early in the set and remained ahead by four midway through the period at 14-10. The Bucs cut the lead to one at one point, but could never draw even as Central pushed back ahead and eventually took the set 25-18 to send the match to a winner take all fifth set.
The bucs got off to a key quick start in the fifth, getting a big block from Amanda Mendes and Kianie Cummings and then a kill from Cummings in the middle to jump out to a 2-0 lead. They later stretched that to 4-1 ahead of a Patriot timeout and led 8-5 at the changeover. The Bucs missed a good chance to go up by five on an attack error, but a Central service error allowed them to push cushion their lead to four at 10-6 moments later. With the score 11-9, the Bucs decided that this was their match as de Sa and Leweling found holes in the Patriot defense, followed by a ball handling error to give FSW five cracks at match point. They would only need one though as Cummings and Mendes closed the set the same way it opened with a roof on the outside to finish off the set 15-9 to give the Bucs the match 3-2.
The Bucs hit just .175 as a team in the match, but got a career high 18 kills from Leweling and 14 from de Sa in the win. Marina Alonso led the Bucs with 30 assists while Raquel Costa e Silva came off the bench to dish out 11 helpers. Ivanova paced the back row with 10 digs for FSW while also leading the team with four big aces. The Bucs came up big on the block with 12 stuffs, their most since their September 10th win over the Patriots. Cummings becomes the first player in program history with double figure blocks in a match as she was in on 10 rejections for the Bucs while Mendes combo'd with her on four of those.
The Bucs win over the Patriots set up a scenario that literally nobody could have predicted a week prior as eight days after FSW was told their season was over, they would now play for a spot in the District Championship with a battle against #13 Hillsborough.
The Bucs got off to a good start against the Lady Hawks, grabbing an early 4-1 lead in the first set, but that success was short lived as Hillsborough roared back to tie the score and then take a 13-10 lead midway through the period. After tying the score at 13 with three straight points, the Bucs went cold, watching as Hillsborough ripped off 8 of the next 11 points to take a commanding 21-16 lead late in the set. FSW never got close in the set again as back to back attack errors by the Bucs brought the first stanza to a close with Hillsborough taking it 25-19 to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
The second didn't begin how the Bucs drew it up in the intermission as they fell behind 7-2 to put themselves in a big hole right off the bat. They clawed back to get to within two at 9-7 on a kill by de Sa, but in the blink of an eye, the Hawks rolled off a 13-2 run, including 10 straight to put the set out of reach. Eventually Hillsborough used a block to bring the set to a close, taking it 25-10 to go ahead 2-0 in the match.
The third set looked like it might head the same direction as the second as Hillsborough again took a 7-2 lead to begin the action. Moments later, the Bucs deficit grew to 10 at 14-4 before a 6-0 run led by three straight kills from Amin got them back into the contest at 14-10. The Bucs slowly crept their way back to within two, but in the end, the Hawks were just too much as they closed out the set 25-22 to sweep the match 3-0 and end FSW's season.
FSW failed to ever get anything going offensively, hitting just .048 as a team in the contest. De Sa again led the Bucs with eight kills while Amin and Leweling each had six. FSW did pile up the dig numbers as Leweling pulled up a career high 18, Ivanova 16, and de Sa 15 in the defeat. The Bucs finished with nine blocks as a team, getting six from Amin and five from Mendes.
The Bucs season comes to an end at 16-8 and in 4th place at the FCSAA State Tournament. FSW put together a number of admirable accomplishments in their inaugural campaign, all while playing the third toughest schedule of any team in the country. The Bucs finish the season with four wins over teams ranked in the top 15 in the country while all eight of their losses came to top 15 ranked squads.