Nov. 19, 2009

Courtesy West Florida Athletics

TAMPA, Fla. – UWF volleyball kept their postseason hopes alive with a thrilling 3-2 (25-20, 25-17, 20-25, 23-25, 15-10) defeat of No. 6 seed Lynn University. Patricia Gandolfo (Porto Alegre, Brazil/Missouri-State CC) helped pave the way with 17 kills as the Argos avenged a five-set loss to Lynn at the beginning of the 2009 season. West Florida will advance to the NCAA South Region semi-finals at 5pm EST on Friday against No. 2 seed Saint Leo.

Five Argonauts turned in double-digit kill performances, led by Gandolfo. Freshman Lindsay Homme (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale Central HS) was the most efficient, swinging at .414 on 14 kills. Outside hitters Valissia Brathwaite (British Virgin Islands/Palm Beach CC) and Jamie Nichols (Crawfordville, Fla./Wakulla HS) joined in the action, contributing 12 and 11 kills respectively. Tricia Tirabassi (Kenosha, Wis./Tremper HS) distributed 50 assists and 12 digs for a double-double, running an offense that hit .277 in the decision. Chelsea Wilhoite (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny HS) had the most well-rounded match with a 10 kill, 11 dig double-double performance, tacking on three service aces, three blocks, and three assists.

Maddie Staub (Spanish Fort, Ala./Daphne HS) was responsible for a 12-dig performance, while defensive specialists Amanda Spaay (Kenosha, Wis./Tremper HS) and Kristen Wimer (Spring Hill, Fla./Polk CC) pitched in nine and seven. Homme had her best defensive performance at the net with six total blocks.

West Florida took the first two sets by storm as they committed just two attack errors across two sets. The Argos kicked things off, taking an early 9-4 lead in the first set. Wilhoite led the charge with three aces as the Fighting Knights were plagued by errors. Both teams hit over .300 throughout the set, though West Florida was relentless after taking such a large lead. Lynn fought back within one at a 13-12 score in favor of UWF before the Argonauts again surged ahead and quickly finished the set 25-20 on a kill from Gandolfo.

Set two was much of the same for the Argos who hit .340 to Lynn’s -.033. UWF jumped out to a 9-3 score, and this time LU struggled to fight back. The Fighting Knights managed to come close at 13-10, but Homme earned the side out to give Spaay the serve. Homme continued on the warpath for the next three points, earning a kill and two blocks to force a time out. Despite failed attempts, Lynn was unable to catch the fiery Argos who took the game 25-17.

A huge momentum shift took UWF by surprise in the next two exhausting sets. The third set saw 11 ties before Lynn edged by one at 16-15. The Fighting Knights strung together two three-point runs that proved to be detrimental to West Florida, as LU earned the 25-20 win. West Florida was bitten by eight errors in the set for a .130 hitting percentage, completely different from their first two over .300 sets.

With UWF still in the driver’s seat at 2-1, the teams took the floor for a fourth set to again go almost point-for-point. Lynn made their statement earlier in the set this time, taking their first significant lead at 9-6. West Florida refused to roll over, however, tying the set at 23. Lynn wasted no time, however, and took the next two points pushing the match to five with the 25-23 win.

The Argos came out of the three minute break with a mission, with two Brathwaite kills and three LU errors giving UWF the 5-2 lead. Lynn took a timeout, but UWF still didn’t let up and reached the monumental eight-point mark first. The 8-2 score was déjà vu for the two teams, as West Florida had taken an 8-2 lead in the fifth set in their last meeting in September. This time, however, the Argos re-wrote the story, fueled to a 15-10 victory led by a .389 team hitting percentage.

The Argos continue their quest tomorrow in the single-elimnation tournament. West Florida faces Saint Leo, a team that they have dropped two matches to earlier in the season. The two compete in the first semi-final at 5pm EST, while the winners of Eckerd vs. Nova Southeastern and Tampa vs. Albany State compete in the 7:30pm EST match.