MADISON, Erase. – After Texas Tech opened up with a two set lead, the FGCU volleyball team stormed back to reverse sweep the Red Raiders for a 3-2 (14-25, 15-25, 25-23, 25-15, 15-7) win in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. With the win, the Eagles tied the program record for single-season wins by improving to 27-5 overall and will face fourth-seeded Wisconsin on Saturday night in the second round. Texas Tech concluded its season with a 17-13 overall record.
“It was a tremendous effort tonight especially when you think how those first two sets looked for us,” said head coach Matt Botsford. “But this group knows who they are and understands that when they play to their identity, how quickly that can flip a match. Our hallmark is our defense and blocking; we won the third set with our offense, but really pulled things together in the fourth and fifth sets with the defense. Ultimately, I’m most proud of their consistency at the end and their ability to believe in what they can do.”
The win marked the 27th win of the season which tied the program record previously set in 2016 and the 2018 seasons. It also marked the second NCAA First Round win for the Eagles following their 3-2 win over No. 13 UCF in Orlando during the 2018 season.
Erin Shomaker (Granville, Ohio/Granville HS) led the Eagles with 20 kills on the night as she finished with a .356 hitting percentage. She also added six digs and five blocks. Cortney VanLiew (Seymour, Ind./Columbus East HS) finished just shy of a double-double with nine kills and nine digs, while Skylar English (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) had eight kills, three digs, and three blocks. Aja Jones (Venice, Fla./Venice HS) had a career-high 10 blocks, while Chelsey Lockey (Eaton, Colo./Eaton HS) picked up 41 assists to direct the offense. Dana Axner (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman HS) led the floor defense with 17 digs moving her within 15 of setting the program’s all-time career record.
Texas Tech, which was making its first NCAA appearance in 20 years, was led by Kenna Sauer who had 18 kills and 18 digs. Reagan Cooper had 14 kills, while Karrington Jones added 10 kills and nine blocks. Alex Kirby had a match-high 52 assists.
The game flipped as the FGCU offense got on track. Through the first two sets, FGCU hit -0.029 in the first and 0.000 in the second. In the third and fourth sets, the Eagles hit over .400 and hit .615 in the fifth set. Defensively, the Green and Blue held the Red Raiders to 0.027 and 0.083 hitting percentages in the final two sets. FGCU also committed just five attack errors combined in the final three sets compared to 16 errors in the first two.
Texas Tech held a 59-to-51 edge in kills, but FGCU held the advantage in aces (7-to-5) and blocks (13-to-12).
In the first set, the Red Raiders used a five-point spurt to take a 13-6 lead with the Eagles able to close the gap to four before Texas Tech pulled away. TTU held an 85.7 side out percentage to keep FGCU at bay throughout.
In the second, things stayed close early with the set tied 9-9 before Texas Tech went on a 9-1 run to open things up.
The third was much more close as it featured 11 ties and six lead changes. FGCU led 19-15, before the Red Raiders scored seven of the next nine to retake the lead. A kill by Jones followed by a kill and an ace from Shomaker put the Eagles back up 24-22. After Cooper got a point back for Texas Tech, English sealed the win for FGCU with a kill.
A five-point run for FGCU opened up a 16-9 lead in the fourth set as the Eagles went through the balance of the match with quick scoring runs to maintain the advantage. Playing in front of her home state fans, Emma Szypszak (Mequon, Wis./Homestead HS) closed out the set with a kill to even up the score at 2-2.
With momentum full on their side, the Eagles jumped out to a 7-1 lead early in the fifth set and Texas Tech never threatened. Back-to-back kills from Shomaker and Jones gave FGCU the match win to advance to the NCAA Second Round.
Saturday night’s match is set for a 7 PM opening serve between FGCU and Wisconsin which will be streamed live on ESPN+. The Badgers won 3-0 over Colgate in Friday night’s second match.
Most Career Kills
|1.||1.651||Cortney VanLiew (.226)||2017-present|
|2.||1,483||Amanda Carroll (.259)||2015-19|
|3.||1,173||Brooke Youngquist Sweat (.245)||2004-07|
|4.||1,132||Olivia Mesner (.331)||2011-14|
|5.||961||Jessica Barnes (.194)||2010-14|
Most Career Digs
|1.||1,965||Whitney Hendry (390 sets)||2004-07|
|2.||1,951||Dana Axner (389 sets)||2018-present|
|3.||1,687||Whitney Masters (483 sets)||2011-14|
|4.||1,652||Holly Youngquist (418 sets)||2008-11|
|5.||1,369||Brook Youngquist Sweat (346 sets)||2004-07|
Most Career Assists
|1.||4.540||Maggie Rick (467 sets)||2015-18|
|2.||4.408||Gigi Myer (474 sets)||2011-14|
|3.||3,458||Chelsey Lockey (382 sets)||2018-present|
|4.||3.108||Chandra Lefever (309 sets)||2006-09|
|5.||1,809||Laura Monoville (186 sets)||2004-05|
Most Career Total Blocks
|1.||483||Daniele Serrano (442 sets)||2016-19|
|2.||342||Olivia Mesner (428 sets)||2011-14|
|3.||287||Ashley Yance (313 sets)||2005-09|
|4.||247||Ericka Fonseca (216 sets)||2005-06|
|5.||219||Aja Jones (182 sets)||2019-present|
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Matt Botsford is in his eighth season as head coach of the FGCU women’s volleyball program in 2021 after being hired on Feb. 10, 2014. In his tenure, Botsford-led teams have compiled a 184-58 (.784) record overall, including a 96-20 (.827) record in ASUN play. Including this past year’s unprecedented spring season, he has taken the program to heights it has not seen in the Division-I era (2007-present) – registering at least 20 wins overall in six of the past seven seasons and at least 10 wins in conference play every season. In 2018, he led the program to its first regular season championship since 2012 (fourth overall) and its first-ever ASUN tournament title, NCAA tournament appearance, NCAA tournament win and victory over a ranked team. His first two campaigns resulted in ASUN regular season runner-up finishes, and the following two saw the Eagles advance to the tournament championship and now the team has won three straight regular season titles, including a division title and ASUN tournament runner-up finish in the spring 2021 season. On Sept. 10, 2016, Botsford led his team to a five-set win over Indiana at Alico Arena, which signified the program’s first-ever win over a team from a Power-5 conference. In 2018, he led the team to a win over Miami (Fla.) – the program’s first-ever road Power 5 win, and the Eagles followed that up with a straight-set win over the Hurricanes at a neutral site in 2019.
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FGCU teams have combined to win an incredible 85 conference regular season and tournament titles in just 14+ seasons at the Division I level. Additionally, in just nine seasons of DI postseason eligibility, the Eagles have had a combined 42 teams or individuals compete in NCAA championships. Eight FGCU programs have earned a top-25 national ranking in their respective sport – including women’s basketball (No. 21, 2020-21), beach volleyball (No. 20, 2021) and both men’s soccer (2018, 2019) and women’s soccer (2018) as three of the most recent. In 2016-17, the Green and Blue posted a department-best sixth-place finish in the DI-AAA Learfield Directors’ Cup and top-100 showing nationally, ahead of several Power-5 and FBS institutions. In 2018-19, the Eagles had an ASUN and state of Florida best seven teams earn the NCAA’s Public Recognition Award for their Academic Progress Rate in their sport. FGCU also collectively earned a record 3.50 GPA in the classroom in the fall 2020 semester and has outperformed the general University undergraduate population for 24 consecutive semesters. The 2019 Fall, 2020 Spring, 2020 Fall, and 2021 Spring semesters each saw another milestone reached as all 15 programs achieved a 3.0-or-higher team GPA in each. The Eagles also served an all-time high 7,200 volunteer hours in 2017 – being recognized as one of two runners-up for the inaugural NACDA Community Service Award presented by the Fiesta Bowl.