ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – In this ever-impressive campaign, the Saint Leo volleyball team accomplished a feat tonight that they have not claimed since the 2005 season – the 23rd-ranked Lions defeated #25 Eckerd College 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 26-24) in Sunshine State Conference action in St. Petersburg on Wednesday evening and pushed their win-streak to 11 games.
The Lions (14-2, 5-0 SSC) rebounded from a 25-20 first-set setback where they looked sluggish defensively, allowing the Tritons to hit .517. In the set one loss, the Lions only hit .167, almost .100 points lower than their lowest percentage for the remainder of the match.
Set two saw Saint Leo take control early, getting out to as much as a 15-10 lead before forcing the Tritons to use their first timeout. Behind kills from Emily Calderon-Reyes, Bruna Rocha and Danielle Bletso the Lions hit .306 and managed to push to a comfortable win to even the match.
The third set was where the momentum of the match was set. The Lions found themselves look at a large deficit, digging a 12-5 hole and seeing Coach Sam Cibrone blow through both of his timeouts before the halfway point of the set. With Eckerd (8-6, 2-3 SSC) leading 18-13, a stroke of luck saw Eckerd begin to mishit nearly every attack. In fact, the host Tritons posted six errors and only connected on three attacks for the remainder. Saint Leo outscored EC 12-4 throughout, posting an unbelievable rally to steal set three and put them in perfect position for the match win.
Set four was a classic back-and-forth affair with both teams staying even early. Behind consecutive kills from Calderon-Reyes, the Lions earned a small three-point advantage, but the Tritons would rally to erase the deficit and knot the score at 21. Tied again at 23 and 24, the Lions took full advantage of the extra volleyball to get a kill from Bletso and, as is becoming the Lions’ style, Rocha dropped down the last of her three service aces on a beautiful hit that caught the Tritons flat-footed and fell for the clinching point.
Rocha, the conference’s Defensive Player of the Week, led the Lions with a team-high 17 kills and a .469 average as she managed a double-double with 11 digs. The Brazilian was one of three Lions with double-digit kills as Calderon-Reyes, also with a double-double, dropped down 14 kills and dug 11 Eckerd attacks. Katilin McKenna, selective in her attacks, had another stellar night, posting a .500 attack average with 13 kills.
Michelle Nogueras assisted on 48 successful attacks and posted 10 digs in the victory.
Saint Leo will now face their biggest test of the season as they travel to #5 Tampa on Saturday afternoon. The Lions and Spartans are scheduled to get things started at 4:00 p.m. at the Bob Martinez Sports Center on the University of Tampa campus.