Bucs Tame Grizzlies, Will Play For National Championship Saturday

Bucs Tame Grizzlies, Will Play For National Championship Saturday
WEST PLAINS, Mo.- The #1 Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers will play for their first National Championship in program history on Saturday after defeating the #5 Missouri State- West Plains Grizzlies 3-0 Friday night in the West Plains Civic Center in the NJCAA National Tournament Semifinals. 
Despite the hostile environment while playing the Grizzlies on their home floor, it was the Bucs who were the aggressors early on the first, jumping out to a 9-6 lead to get things going. A big serve resulting in an ace from Barbara Koehler kept FSW up three midway through the first at 15-12 and a solo block from Julia Lawrenz in the middle made it 19-14 Bucs. A ace from Maria Cecilia put the Bucs on the brink of the victory and Roberta Purashaj found Lawrenz on game point to give the Bucs the first 25-16. 
The second set was back and forth at the start as MSU-West Plains got the first three point to jump out to an early lead, but FSW answered back by scoring the next six to go ahead 6-3. The Bucs carried a one point lead at 12-11 to the middle of the set and held that slight advantage 10 points later at 18-17. A combo block from Lawrenz and Alondra Alarcon followed by an Alarcon kill put the Bucs up 21-17 and then finished off the second on a second ball kill from Purashaj to take it 25-20 and go ahead 2-0 in the match. 
With their backs to the wall, the Grizzlies came out determined in the third, taking a 4-2 lead early and stretching it to three midway through the set at 11-8. Back to back aces from Alarcon drew the Bucs back to within one but a burst by West Plains had the Grizzlies cushioning their lead back to four at 15-11.  The match looked like it was headed to the fourth as the Grizzlies led it 22-17 late in the period, but a kill from Cecilia followed by an ace from the sophomore gave FSW a glimmer of hope in completing the sweep. A sideout by West Plains made it 23-19 when Maiana Coelho and Madu Fontes came off the FSW bench to spark a 4-0 run to not only fend off the Grizzlies attack, but to give the Bucs their first lead of the set at 24-23. The teams traded service errors to 25-24 before Koehler put the game on ice, banging her 12th kill of the night off the block and down to give the Bucs the set 26-24 and punch their ticket for their first National Championship Game appearance in program history.  
The Bucs offense was electric in the win as FSW finished off 46 kills in the three setter, led by 13 from Alarcon and 12 from Koehler.  Purashaj again quarterbacked the offense with precision, dishing out a match high 31 assists and also dialing up 3 aces in the win. 
FSW sets a new program record with their 26th win of the season in the victory as they improve to 26-1 overall.  Missouri State-West Plains sees their 20 game win streak come to a screeching halt as they fall to 26-8. 
The win advances FSW to their first National Championship Game appearance in just their fourth year of competition.  It will be an all Florida matchup in the final as the Bucs square off against Suncoast Conference rival #6 Miami Dade for the fourth time this season in the 8:30 (ET) first serve.  
Not only will the 2022 Bucs be making program history with the title game appearance, but they will also be making NJCAA history as the Bucs and the Sharks will be playing the first NJCAA Volleyball game on the ESPN family of networks as Saturday night's contest will be streamed exclusively on ESPN+.