PHOTO CREDIT: Alex De La Osa/UAA Communications

Gators Face Off with Eagles in NCAA Second Round

Florida will go from playing a team it saw almost three months prior to a team it hasn’t seen since 2012.

The No. 16 Florida Gators (25-6) take on the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (27-6) in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament Friday night.

FGCU started its first NCAA tournament appearance in school history with a bang. They upset the host team in the No. 13 UCF Knights Thursday night to advance past the first round.

How They Pulled It Off

FGCU Basketball isn’t the only Eagles team that can make a splash come tournament time.

It took five sets, almost 200 swings and multiple double-doubles to take the match.

They were led offensively by sophomore outside hitter, and ASUN Player of the Year, Cortney VanLiew. She registered a double-double with 25 kills on an superhuman 79 swings and providing on defense with 12 digs.

Her pin-hitting counterpart, Snowy Burnam was another one of the five Eagles players to record a double-double in the match as she tossed in 15 kills and 26 digs.

Other double-double performances:

  • S Maggie Rick (senior) – 27 assists and 11 digs
  • L Dana Axner (freshman) – 11 assists and 29 digs
  • S Chelsey Lockey (freshman) – 18 assists and 12 digs

“Obviously we haven’t done something like this before, but winning the conference championship for the first time, now going through this experience,” Head Coach Matt Botsford said. “It’s just special for me to see that.”

Scouting the Eagles

Statistically, the school from Fort Myers holds the advantage in most major categories in a head-to-head comparison with Florida.

They outpace the Gators in hitting efficiency, hitting efficiency allowed, digs per set, kills per set and assists per set.

That upset was no fluke. This is an Eagles team that dominated the awards circuit in the ASUN 2018.

Award Winners:

  • Cortney VanLiew –  Player of the Year (470 kills, 4.02 kills/set, 1st team all-conference)
  • Dana Axner – Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year (FGCU record 607 digs, 5.19 per set, 1st team all-conference)
  • Matt Botsford – Coach of the Year (won first regular season title since 2012)

Middle blocker Sharonda Pickering also took home 1st team all-conference honors after leading the ASUN in blocks (161) and blocks per set (1.44)

Second team all-conference: S Maggie Rick and MB Dani Serrano

Conference all-freshmen: L Dana Axner, S Chelsey Lockley and MB Tori Morris

Florida will take on the Eagles Friday night at 7 p.m. It can be seen on and heard on the air waves of ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF.

About Jake Hitt

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