FORT MYERS, Fla.- Playing with their season on the line, the Florida SouthWestern State Buccaneers came up with one of their best performances of the year in the FCSAA State Tournament in Jacksonville, knocking off #14 Central Florida 3-2 in a thrilling five set match to advance to the tournament's Final Four.
After splitting their two regular season matches, FSW and Central Florida again looked evenly matched in the first set, playing to a 20-20 tie through their first 40 points played. 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 a 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 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 win pushed the Bucs to the Final Four of the tournament. Their Cinderella run came to an end later in the day as they fell to Hillsborough in the tournament semifinal, finishing their inaugural campaign in 4th place. Each of the top three finishers in the tournament (Miami Dade, Polk State, and Hillsborough) reached the NJCAA National Tournament, all finishing that in the top six in the country.
Stay tuned to FSWBucs.com and @FSWBucs on social media on Wednesday as we continue our countdown the top moment of the Bucs Athletics season with our #3 spot on the list!
Top 10 Moments of the 2019-2020 FSW Athletics Year