Will Duval | Sports Director
The FIU volleyball team swept the LA Tech Bulldogs in a two-game series, reaching its conclusion with a 3-0 victory on Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023 at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center in Miami, Florida.
Coming into this series, the Panthers held a 4-9 record following a 2-1 stretch while hosting the 305 Challenge.
Winning back-to-back games to close out the tournament, FIU started to build momentum after a slow 2-8 start to the season.
Holding a stronger record prior to this series, the Bulldogs held a 5-7 record following a 1-2 outing at the Battle for the Boot tournament in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
After taking a 3-1 win over the Southern Jaguars to start the tournament, they didn’t win another set and lost back-to-back games to finish their road trip.
Historically, the Panthers held a 10-3 record over LA Tech but they had been unable to defeat them since 2018.
Playing the first match of the series on Friday, Sep. 22, 2023, FIU dominated from the opening serve.
To start the first set, the Panthers built an early 6-1 lead with graduate student outside hitter Syra Tanchin contributing two kills.
Refusing to let up, they never lost the lead at any point in the first set and built a 20-17 advantage.
Closing out the set, five different Panthers scored five consecutive points, winning the first set with a 25-17 score.
In a much more back-and-forth second set, the game was tied at 18-18 following two points from the Bulldogs.
Remaining composed in a tight match, FIU scored six straight points and jumped out to a 24-18 lead.
Attempting to rally, LA Tech scored once more but lost the set on a service error from freshman right-side hitter Sa’Myah Medford.
Reaching the final set, the Bulldogs fell into a 2-0 deficit and weren’t going down without a fight.
For the entire set, the lead alternated between both teams and neither could build more than a three point advantage.
With the score tied at 26-26 late into the set, neither team could claim a two-point advantage to win.
Sophomore outside hitter Carla Esquer delivered a service ace for LA Tech and gave them a 27-26 lead.
Striking back quickly, FIU scored three straight points, with sophomore libero Mandi Morioka coming through with a service ace and winning the match.
Taking all three sets in the first match, the Panthers defeated the Bulldogs for the first time since 2018.
Leading the way offensively was junior outside hitter Mackenzie Morgan who had 13 kills with a 42.9% hitting percentage.
Knowing the job wasn’t over yet, FIU started the second match ready to dominate the competition.
Despite LA Tech claiming a 7-5 lead to start the first set, the Panthers tied the game at 7-7 and never looked back.
Having their way on offense, FIU stretched out the lead and blew out the Bulldogs in the first set, claiming a 25-17 victory.
Continuing their dominance in the second set, the Panthers never trailed after evening up the score at 6-6.
Attempting to keep up with the offensive attack, LA Tech never let the lead grow to more than two points and eventually tied it at 24-24.
Due to a service error from the Bulldogs, Morgan took advantage of the opportunity and scored for FIU, winning the set 26-24.
Almost running out of energy in the third set, the Panthers fell into an early 12-6 deficit.
Following two errors for LA Tech, FIU swung the momentum in their direction with three consecutive kills.
In an all-out team effort, they outscored the Bulldogs 20-5 after they trailed early and won the match for the Panthers.
Tanchin accounted for 17 of FIU’s 50 kills in the match and led the team in kills.
Not surrendering a single set over two games, FIU swept LA Tech and jumped out to a four-game winning streak.
Improving their record to 6-9 on the season, the Panthers are undefeated against Conference USA teams following the series sweep.
Looking to add to their winning streak, the FIU volleyball team starts a two-game series against the Sam Houston Bearkats on Friday, Sep. 29, 2023 in Huntsville, Texas.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum.
Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40