LAKELAND, Fla. – Behind four Lions with double-digit kills, the No. 12 Saint Leo volleyball team racked up their 14th Sunshine State Conference win in 2009 as they defeated Florida Southern 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-22, 25-12) in conference action at FSC’s Jenkins Field House on Tuesday evening.
Saint Leo (27-3, 14-1 SSC) set the tone for a good match in the first set when they jumped out to a 10-5 advantage, capitalizing on Moccasin attacking errors and some solid kills. The Lions would force Florida Southern (14-17, 5-10 SSC) to use their first timeout, but it wouldn’t change the match’s outcome, as SLU pushed the advantage to 22-16 before closing it out.
Set two saw the momentum stay with the Green & Gold through the first third of the set as they built a 13-10 lead on the hosts, but Florida Southern would rally to score the next four points to take their first lead of the match. The shift in luck seemed to rattle the Lions as they found themselves scrambling to keep up with the suddenly red-hot Mocs.
After knotting the score at 14, Saint Leo would watch as FSC would rattle-off six of the next nine points to take a rather commanding lead. Despite a final rally attempt by the Lions, cutting the Mocs’ lead to just two, FSC would earns a side-out and hold the serve until set-point, getting a final kill to win the set and tie the match.
The third set was nearly a carbon copy of its predecessor, save for the fact that Florida Southern was the team who surrendered the lead. With momentum, and a loud home crowd, on their side, the Mocs jumped out to an 11-7 advantage over SLU, forcing Head Coach Sam Cibrone to use his first timeout. Out of the break the Lions would begin to try and break out of the slump as they pulled to within one point at 12-11.
Both teams would trade points, and the lead, up until the score was tied at 22 and tension on both sides was the highest. Emily Calderon-Reyes, who notched the set-tying kill and gave the Lions the serve, toed the line with the match in her hands. Her blast of a serve helped force the Mocs into two attack errors and she put the exclamation point on the set with a laser of a jump-serve that bent almost as sharp as a pitcher’s curveball across the court and hit just beyond the attack-line and just inside the sideline. Her only ace of the match would come at its most crucial moment for the Lions.
The final four points of the third set seemed to reignite the Lions heading into set four as they nearly blew the doors off the Jenkins Field House, hitting .400 better than their rivals. The SLU attack left little doubt, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and taking it to as much as 8-1 before FSC scored consecutive points. The Lions’ defense showed up as well, dropping down five blocks on the Moccasin attacks while not surrendering one. Saint Leo would hit .462 in the set while holding FSC to -.062 as SLU capped off their 27th win of the season.
The Lions racked up some solid statistics in the match as both Bruna Rocha and Calderon-Reyes tallied double-doubles with 12 kills each, while Rocha notched a team-high 15 digs and Calderon-Reyes got 12. Also in double-figures on the attacking side were Kaitlin McKenna and Danielle Bletso, who both blasted 10 kills home.
Senior setter Michelle Nogueras had another double-double night as well with 42 set-assists and 11 digs and was three kills shy of a triple-double.
Chelsea Armer dug up 14 FSC attacks on Saint Leo’s back row.
As a team, the Lions hit .312 compared to Florida Southern’s .184 and out-blocked their hosts 9-to-1.
Saint Leo will now look to wrap up the 2009 regular season as the Lions head to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday for a matinee with Nova Southeastern. The match is scheduled to get underway at 4:00 p.m. in NSU’s Don Taft University Center.