Panthers look forward to climbing standings in final games of season

By: Alejandro Aguirre/Contributing Writer

After a quick home stand against Middle Tennessee and Southern Mississippi this past weekend, the volleyball team is back on the road for two conference games against Western Kentucky and North Texas.

The Panthers unfortunately lost both home matches each going the distance to five sets. This hurt the team’s spot in the standings as it dropped them to eighth in the standings, after being in fifth place, and now having a Conference USA record of 3-5.

This weekend’s matchups don’t get any easier as Western Kentucky is second in the Conference and North Texas is one spot above FIU  at seventh in the standings.

Once again, the Panthers are under .500 and look to bounce back this weekend to even up their C- USA record and solidify their mark in the standings to have a spot in the C-USA tournament.

This Friday, Oct. 24, the Panthers first opponent on the road trip will be Western Kentucky. Mentioned previously, they are one of the top seeded teams in the conference with a C- USA record of 8-1. They are also the first team in the conference to reach 20 wins. Their overall record is an impressive 20-5.

Going into the match against FIU, the Hilltoppers have won their last nine out of ten games. Earlier this season on Friday, Oct. 3, WKU played FIU here at home and easily swept the Panthers in three sets.

On the flipside coming into this match WKU will be facing a new and extremely improved FIU volleyball team. Since their first encounter, the Panthers were in the bottom of the standings and since then they are right in the thick of things and still climbing their way up in the standings. Still, this will be a difficult match for FIU because WKU is still undefeated at home this season with a 9-0 record.

Recently FIU has been able to play deep into matches and hasn’t been swept since playing WKU who leads the conference in sweeps. The Panthers have an opportunity to make a statement in the conference with a win against the Hilltoppers in this true David and Goliath matchup.

Two days later on Sunday, Oct. 26, the team will travel from Kentucky to Denton, Texas to take on the Mean Green. North Texas is only one spot ahead of the Panthers and exactly one game ahead of them.

North Texas has been in a slump as of late losing six of their last ten games dropping them in the standings. Compared to WKU, North Texas has showed some problems lately when playing at home losing their last two matches. Still, their record at home is a solid 7-3.

This will be the first and only time these two teams will matchup in the regular season so FIU needs to get the win in this match to place over them in the standings. North Texas’ C-USA record is 4-5 but that should not fool anybody of their abilities because they have an overall winning record of 13- 9 which shows they beat better talent outside of the conference as well.

This match and overall road trip is crucial for the Panthers but more importantly junior co-captain Lucia Castro who is on a hot streak right now leading the team in scoring. It is crucial that her play style spreads throughout the team as they are on the home stretch of the regular season.

One player can’t single handedly beat these teams especially WKU. In these upcoming games, the Panthers have to show what they are truly made of because the balance of the season could be determined in these two games, whether or not the Panthers have a spot in the playoffs.


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