FORT MYERS, Fla. – A balanced effort in the finale of the Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Classic helped the FGCU volleyball team (6-0) to a three-set win – 25-10, 25-16, 25-15 – over USC Upstate (1-4) on Friday night at Alico Arena. The win improved the Eagles to 6-0 which tied the program’s best start to a season and made the Green and Blue one of just four teams nationally to have not lost a single set this year.
With the sixth perfect sweep, FGCU also extended its program record with 18 unbeaten sets. The six-match win streak tied both the 2004 and 2019 squads for the best start to a year.
All told, the Eagles join Auburn (4-0), Memphis (6-0), and New Mexico (6-0) as the only teams not to lose a set on the year.
FGCU won the overall team title for the Hilton Garden Inn FGCU Classic with Juliana Lentz’s (Miami, Fla./St. Brendan HS) being named the MVP. Dana Axner (Dublin, Ohio/Dublin Coffman HS) joined her on the All-Tournament Team to represent the Eagles. Kelly Wiedemann of USC Upstate, Giada Bianchi of FIU, and Dominique Washington of FAMU were also named to the squad.
“Defensively, it was another great performance from the team tonight,” said head coach Matt Botsford. “There was a pretty nice coordination between the front and back row that wasn’t there as much in the morning match and that was good progress to see. We were able to try a few different personnel in the match.”
In Saturday night’s match-up, the Eagles were led by Erin Shomaker (Granville, Ohio/Granville HS) who had eight kills followed by Aja Jones (Venice, Fla./Venice HS), Cortney VanLiew (Seymour, Ind./Columbus East HS), and Skylar English (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier HS) who each had six kills. Chelsey Lockey (Eaton, Colo./Eaton HS) had a double-double with 22 assists and 11 digs, while Axner posted a match-high 18 digs.
VanLiew also added 10 digs to move into 6th all-time with 948 for her career. She passed Gigi Myers who had 947 from 2011-14. VanLiew is on the verge of joining Brooke Youngquist Sweat as the only players to post 1,000-plus kills and 1,000-plus digs. She needs 14 more kills to surpass Amanda Carroll (1483, 2015-19) to become the program’s all-time leader.
USC Upstate was led by Breeana Gamueda who had seven kills, while Allie Hamsher had 10 assists. Julia Gladhill added 16 digs.
The Eagles hit .266 while holding the Spartans to -0.53 for the night. FGCU had 36 kills to just 19 for USC Upstate and committed 14 fewer attack errors (11 total).
In the first set, FGCU used a 14-to-2 run midway through to open things up en route to the 25-10 win. The second set started a bit more closely, but after being tied 7-7, the Eagles scored five straight to begin pulling away. After the Spartans closed within three, 19-16, FGCU closed the match on a six-point run for the win. The final set of the night had the Green and Blue jumping out to a 10-2 lead and led by as many as 13, 21-8. The Spartans pulled within seven, but an Upstate service error followed by a kill from English and then an attack error gave FGCU the match win.
FGCU – Juliana Lentz – MVP
FGCU – Dana Axner
USC Upstate – Kelly Wiedemann
FIU – Giada Bianchi
FAMU – Dominique Washington
The Eagles will return to action next Friday and Saturday, Sept. 10-11, at the UCF Invitational in Orlando. FGCU will take on the Knights on Friday at 10 AM before facing Georgia at 5:30 PM. On Saturday, the Green and Blue will take on Florida State with the first serve set for 5:30 PM.
For complete coverage of the volleyball program, follow the Eagles on Twitter at @FGCU_VB, on Instagram at @FGCU_VB, on Facebook at /FGCUVolleyball and online at FGCUathletics.com. You can also sign-up to have news on FGCU volleyball or other programs delivered directly to your inbox by visiting www.fgcuathletics.com/email.
IT TAKES A TEAM to achieve our newest goal – a $10 million campaign to address student-athlete needs in continued academic success, life skills, mental health, nutrition, and strength and conditioning as well as departmental needs in facility expansion and improvement as well as mentoring and leadership training for coaches and staff. The name embodies our mission and the purpose of the E.A.G.L.E. Campaign – Eagle Athletics Generating Lifetime Excellence. Join Our Team and pledge your gift today to help the Eagles of tomorrow!
Matt Botsford is entering 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 163-53 (.748) record overall, including an 81-19 (.810) 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 five of the past six 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 in 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.
FGCU Athletics sponsors events in November and April to benefit the FGCU Campus Food Pantry (www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry) and the Harry Chapin Food Bank (www.harrychapinfoodbank.org), FGCU Athletics’ charities of choice. For more information, including how to make a contribution, please visit www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry and utilize the hashtag #FeedFGCU to help raise awareness.
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 D-I 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.