When two top-10 ranked teams face each other many times the game does not live up to the hype surrounding it. And when the two teams are rivals there may be an even bigger buildup then normal, making it almost impossible fulfill expectations.
But last Saturday’s volleyball match between two of the elite teams in the nation, Florida Southern and Tampa, had everything a fan could ask for. There were lead changes and long rallies in a highly competitive match between the biggest rivals in Division II sports, and for the second consecutive season the Spartans defeated the Moccasins in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people inside the Bob Martinez Sports Center.
After splitting the first two games, the third game became even more crucial in the best of five series.
Tied at one game apiece the Spartans turned to an unlikely source in game three.
UT used the serve of libero Margeaux Sinibaldi to carry them to a critical third game win. Sinibaldi, the all-time digs leader in the Sunshine State Conference, is known as a defensive specialist.
But with the score 20-18 in favor of UT in the third game, the Spartans scored six straight points off of her serve on their way to a 30-22 game three win.
Tampa carried that momentum into the final game winning it 32-30 and taking the match 3-1 against the ninth-ranked Moccasins.
“After losing the second game I think the entire team was in the mind set that we had to step it up,” Sinibaldi said. “We knew they weren’t going to play the match the way they played the first game. They did not have a good start.”
The Mocs almost forced a fifth and deciding game, but came up just short in the finale. They fell behind by six points on three different occasions in the game, but responded each time with runs to cut the deficit.
Florida Southern was one point away from forcing a fifth game as they held a 30-29 advantage, but three straight points from Tampa ended the match. Senior Katelen Dixon converted on the last two kills for UT.
Alisha Green and Erin Clark led the Spartans with 16 kills each. Dixon added 15 kills and Danielle MacDonald converted on 14 of her 24 attempts for a .583 hitting percentage. Gabriela Saade had 61 assists.
Danielle Higgnbotham and Ashley Martin led the Mocs with 16 and 15 kills, respectively.
“This was the best win of our season by far,” Sinibaldi said. “We played in an intense atmosphere, we were placed in situations that we haven’t been in this season, and got to play great volleyball. It also gives us an idea of where we are at. They expose us and so now we know what parts of our game we need to get better at.”