FORT MYERS, Fla. - The FGCU volleyball team (3-0) produced wins over Bryant (25-14, 25-17, 25-23) and San Diego State (22-25, 25-23, 25-23, 22-25, 15-11) in Alico Arena on Saturday to claim the Homewood Suites Fort Myers Classic championship.
Dana Axner was named the MVP, while Cortney VanLiew was named to the all-classic team. It is only the third such start (3-0) to a season in the program's Division I era (2007-present).
In a thrilling nightcap against San Diego State (2-1), the Eagles lost the opening set and faced a 20-15 deficit in the second. VanLiew (Seymour, Ind./Columbus East HS), who had a team-high 21 kills, helped her team respond with a pair of kills and an ace to highlight a 6-0 run that gave FGCU a 21-20 lead. Moments later, Erin Shomaker's solo block gave the Green and Blue a two-point win to even up the match.
The third set featured a four-point deficit for FGCU, but VanLiew had four kills in the set alone to help lead her team to a come-from-behind 25-23 win. SDSU answered back to even the match, but the duo of VanLiew and Giovanna Borgiotti, who had three kills apiece in the final set, helped the Eagles claim a thrilling win.
The highlight of the match was a career-best performance from junior Alayna Ryan (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers HS), who tallied a career-high 12 digs and added a pair of aces. Defensively, the Eagles were paced by 25 digs from Axner (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman HS), while Snowy Burnam chipped in 17.
Outside of VanLiew, who added 10 digs for her first double-double of the season, Daniele Serrano and Borgiotti (Vienna, Va./George C. Marshall HS) added 11 and nine kills, respectively, to pace the offense. Chelsey Lockey finished with a career-high 54 assists, while Serrano (Sanford, Fla./Seminole HS) had a team-high five blocks (one solo).
FGCU defeats Bryant behind Axner's late heroics
Axner had 10 of her match-high 16 digs in a 25-23 final set to give the Eagles a sweep of Bryant in Saturday's opener.
A balanced offensive attack saw VanLiew finish with a team-high nine kills, while Shomaker finished second with eight. Aja Jones, Borgiotti and Tori Morris each chipped in five apiece, while Lockey (Eaton, Colo./Eaton HS) had a match-high 32 assists.
In addition to Axner's 16, Amanda Carroll (Albuquerque, N.M./Sandia HS) added eight digs, and VanLiew contributed seven. Meanwhile, Morris (Virginia Beach, Va./Floyd E. Kellam HS) led all players with five blocks, although Jones (Venice, Fla./Venice HS) and Shomaker each had four. As a team, the Eagles recorded 22 blocks (three solo).
Axner pushed her three-match season dig total to 69 this year, pushing her career total to 693 and pushing her past Vanessa Benke (681, 2013-15) for eighth place on the program's Division I era list. Next up is Maggie Rick (823, 2015-18).
FGCU will now hit the road for three weeks with the next stop coming at the Hurricane Invitational hosted by the University of Miami this coming weekend where the Eagles will face South Florida, Auburn and George Washington. The team will next play at home on Sept. 27.