Record-Breaking Season Concludes For FGCU With Loss To No. 16 Florida

Record-Breaking Season Concludes For FGCU With Loss To No. 16 Florida

ORLANDO, Fla. - The No. 16 Florida women's volleyball team (26-6) used its size and experience to produce a 25-17, 25-13, 25-17 win over FGCU (27-7) in a second round NCAA tournament match on Friday at The Venue on the campus of UCF.

The defending national runner-up Gators produced a starting lineup that included five players at 6-1 or above, including 6-8 Rachael Kramer and 6-7 Holly Carlton. They will advance to next weekend's regional tournament, while the Green and Blue conclude the best season in program history.

"I thought Florida played tremendously well," FGCU head coach Matt Botsford said. "They served the ball great. That was really the story of the match and put us in some pretty big holes pretty early in each of those sets. I was really impressed with that. I don't think we were as prepared for that facet of their game, and they did it extremely well. We knew they were going to be big and physical at the net, but I thought the way they managed from the service line and their first contact had us on our heels from the beginning."

Sophomore Cortney VanLiew had a team-high 12 kills along with four digs and one block assist. Maggie Rick and Chelsey Lockey (Eaton, Colo./Eaton HS) had 12 assists apiece, while Dana Axner had 17 digs and the team's lone ace. Kaitlan Krivdo (Hope Mills, N.C./Gray's Creek HS) contributed a team-high two blocks (one solo) in her collegiate finale.

"Our players would have liked to have performed at a higher level in an environment like this, but I know they gave everything they had," Botsford said. "We just didn't execute. I'm certainly proud of the effort and trying to take a step back and reflect on the job they've done all season and really celebrate that."

Early on, FGCU handled any nerves they had pretty well by jumping out to a 7-3 lead. Florida responded with five straight to force a timeout before the teams went back-and-forth with the Gators holding a 15-14 lead midway through the set. At that point, however, four straight kills spurred a 9-1 run for Florida that allowed them to eventually claim the opening set.
The teams exchanged the first four points of the next set, but Florida scored four straight and 14 of the next 19 to seize a 16-7 lead. Following that, they closed the set on a 6-2 run to take a 2-0 lead.

The final set featured a 7-0 run from the Gators late in the set after FGCU pulled within 17-15 on a kill from Snowy Burnam (Palm City, Fla./Jensen Beach HS). Paige Hammons, who had a match-high 14 kills over 32 attempts, sent Florida to the round of 16 with the match-winning attack.

FGCU concluded its season by tying the 2016 team's Division-I era single-season wins record. It was the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, and they earned the conference's first tournament win since 2003. Additionally, the team's 16-match winning streak was snapped, but not before tying the Division-I era record - joining the 2012 and 2016 teams.

With her offensive output, VanLiew (Seymour, Ind./Columbus East HS) finished the season with 482 kills - just three shy of matching Amanda Carroll's (Albuquerque, N.M./Sandia HS) single season record set in 2016. She did shatter Carroll's (1,193, 2015) single-season record for attack attempts with 1,341, though.

Rick (Alpharetta, Ga./Blessed Trinity Catholic HS) finished her career as the program's all-time leader in assists (4,540) and matches played (131). She tallied double-digits in all every career match.

Sharonda Pickering (Sea Cow's Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands/Elmore Stoutt HS) finished with a .419 hitting percentage, which breaks the program's single-season record previously held by Cara Ziegler (.416, 2007). She fell just shy of Ziegler's (.403, 2006-07) career record, though, and finished her career at .399.

Axner (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman HS) concluded her freshman campaign with a single-season record 624 digs, surpassing Whitney Hendry's 606 from 2005.