Nov. 19, 2009

Courtesy of Eckerd

TAMPA, Fla. - For the first time in four consecutive tries, the Eckerd Tritons Volleyball team (20-11) has gone to the first round of the NCAA regional tournament and won. Playing against the #5 seeded Nova Southeastern Sharks (19-11), the #4 seeded Tritons disregarded the fact that they lost to NSU twice in the regular season and brought everything they had to pull off a 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 35-33, 25-20) victory.

Smiling from ear to ear, Coach Courtney Draper expresses of her team, “I’m just really proud of our team and the way they played tonight and that they were able to achieve our first tournament win.”

Winning one set apiece in the first and second sets, the Tritons and the Sharks went into the third set ready to battle to the very end. Despite NSU winning the first point, the Tritons managed to stay with the Sharks in a set that featured 20 ties. The decisive set went to a 33-33 tie before Eckerd finally managed to clinch the last two points needed for the win, thanks to a kill by senior Lydee Benoit and a net violation by NSU. However, the Sharks held the Tritons to a .298 attack percentage compared to their .391.

After such a stressful third set, Coach Draper discussed what she talked about with her players going into the fourth.

“We talked a lot about just battling and playing with your heart because there were some plays where the other team would score on a tip or a roll shot and those are typically the easier balls to defend. Our opponent was going more for placement and to me I felt like our players should be able to read that and pick that ball up and defend it a little better. So we just talked about the urgency needed in that set, we talked about our seniors, ‘don’t make this their last match,’ because obviously Megan [Golovkin], Lydee [Benoit] and Allegra [Shaw] have done so much for this program so we wanted to extend it at least another day.”

Going into the fourth set ahead 2-1, Eckerd was looking to take away a match victory before the fifth set, however it seemed that the Sharks had another opinion on the matter. Winning the first point, NSU dominated the fourth set up until point 16 when the Tritons finally managed to take the lead. By point 21 it became apparent that Eckerd could taste victory, while NSU sensed a looming defeat, calling a time-out.

When the score board read 24-20 in Eckerd’s favor, the crowd was on its feet chanting “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole!” as Benoit was set up to for the match-winning kill, attaining the match-point and sending Eckerd on to the next round of NCAA tournament play.

In regards to sending her team, as well as herself, on to the next round for the first time in program history, Benoit says, “I saw the ball and was just ‘hit it as hard as you can and hopefully it will go down and get the point,’ but it is really exciting to be here for four years, to have gotten here to the tournament for the past three years and not pass the first round, and just to go to the second round is a huge momentum builder and hopefully we can carry that on to the next round.”

Overall, the Tritons finished the match with a .336 attacking percentage, holding the Sharks to their .243. Both teams finished with a total of 64 kills.

Headlining the number of kills for Eckerd were freshmen Taylor Manning and senior Lydee Benoit, with 14 and 13 respectively. Freshman Taylor Whaley and sophomore Arianna Chinn both obtained 10 kills apiece, while freshman Alex Laton tallied eight overall. For the Sharks, junior Lucia Cizmarova and freshman Molly Sigerich lead their team in 19 and 18 kills, respectively.

The Tritons will play in the South Region semifinals tomorrow on Friday, November 20 against the top-seeded Tampa Spartans at 7:30.