BOCA RATON, Fla. – The No. 24 Saint Leo volleyball team (18-4, 2-3 SSC) fell to the Lynn University Fighting Knights (12-7, 3-0) in a heartbreaking five set match (23-25, 20-25, 25-21, 30-28, 15-17), Friday evening at the Count & Countess de Hoernie Sports and Cultural Center in Boca Raton, Fla.
After dropping the opening two sets, Saint Leo rallied back to tie the match at two, including a dramatic fourth set. The Lions could not complete the comeback attempt though, falling in a tight fifth set. The loss is the Lions third in SSC action.
SLU was led by Michelle Nogueras, who struck for her fourth triple-double of the season and third of the last four matches. She had 10 kills, 40 assists and 14 digs, while hitting .562 on the night. Freshman Danielle Bletso also had a big night for the Lions, hitting .381 with ten kills, 2.0 block solos and 8.0 block assists. Senior Audrey Starkebaum racked up 13 kills and teammate Jenna Jordan hammered down ten kills. Kaitlin McKenna added eight kills along with 2.0 block solos and 5.0 block assists. Chelsea Armer added 22 digs in the defeat.
The Lions and Knights went back and forth through the early stages of the first set. Lynn eventually pushed the score to 24-20, but the Lions refused to quit rallying off three straight points to pull within one. But the lead was too large to overcome and the Knights added one final kill, sealing the victory. Despite the close score, Lynn outhit Leo .316 to .214 during the set. Four attack errors also hurt the Lions cause during the set.
Saint Leo and Lynn wasted no time going back at it, trading point for point. But the Lions could not hold on to a 16-12 lead near the midpoint of the match. With the Lions offense stalling, the Knights went on a 13-4 run, giving them a 2-0 match lead. It was SLU’s worst hitting percentage of the season, hitting -.083 as a team, only recording five total kills.
The third set is where things turned around for the Lions. After Saint Leo went up 12-11 on a Bletso kill, the Lions rallied off five consecutive points in a row to take a commanding 17-11 lead. Audrey Starkebaum slammed the final point of the set to the floor wrapping up the Lions first set win. The Lions still only hit .025 as a team but the Lions capitalized on ten Knights’ errors in the win.
In an exciting fourth-set victory, Saint Leo improved their hitting percentage drastically, hitting .271 as a team, their highest of the match. After a nip and tuck beginning, the Lions jumped out to a 17-12 lead. But the Knights did not go away quietly, outscoring the Lions 12-7 to tie the match at 24. The Lions quickly found themselves on the defense trying to hold off the Knights attack and the two teams exchanged points well past the normal 25 needed for victory. Down 27-28, Nogueras smacked one of her ten kills over the net to tie the match. A Block by Bletso put the Lions up one and the blocking combo of Jordan and Bletso allowed the Lions to force a fifth set.
After jumping out to an early 3-0 lead, Lynn scored eight of next 11 points to give them a 8-6 lead. With the Lions down 7-11, the Lions stormed back scoring five of the next six points to tie the match at 12. The Lions and Knights, as they did all night, went point for point until the match was tied at 15. The comeback effort was halted though, as Lynn racked up the final two points of the set. The Lions were outhit .209 to .143 in the evenly played contest.
SLU was outhit .181 to Lynn’s .194. The Lions did not take advantage of the 39 attacking errors on the Knights’ side, as they committed 25 themselves
The Lions continue their south Florida road trip tomorrow afternoon with an important SSC match-up at Nova Southeastern University with first-serve occurring at 4:00 p.m. The match will be broadcasted live on the Saint Leo Athletics AudioCast Network