Volleyball remains perfect in conference play, sweeps Sam Houston in a two-game series

Graduate student outside hitter Syra Tanchin hitting the ball. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics.

Will Duval | Sports Director

The FIU volleyball team traveled to Huntsville, Texas and swept the Sam Houston Bearkats in a two-game series, reaching its conclusion on Saturday, Sep. 30, 2023.

Coming into this matchup, the Panthers won four out of their previous five games and held a 6-9 record.

In their most recent stretch of games, they swept the LA Tech Bulldogs in a two-game series and started off their Conference USA campaign with a 2-0 record.

Due to her standout performance, sophomore libero Mandi Morioka was named CUSA Defensive Player of the Week after totaling 41 digs over two games.

Holding an identical 6-9 record prior to this series, the Bearkats struggled to find a consistent level of play.

After holding a positive 6-4 record over their first ten games, they went on a five-game losing streak and were unable to keep up with other teams.

Almost breaking their cold streak in their match against Tulsa, Sam Houston blew a 2-0 lead and lost three consecutive sets to lose the game on Sep. 10, 2023.

Looking to protect their undefeated record against both CUSA opponents and the Bearkats historically, FIU started the series laser focused.

Playing the first of two games on Friday, Sep. 29, 2023, the Panthers came out of the gates ready to attack offensively. 

Opening up an early lead in the first set, senior opposite hitter Amin Yasso collected three consecutive service aces and gave the team a 5-2 advantage.

As FIU seemed to not have trouble early on, they built out a 14-9 lead and were controlling the speed of the match.

Responding in an extreme fashion, junior outside hitter Alyssa Fielder and junior libero Hannah Baker scored five consecutive points for Sam Houston, tying the game at 14-14.

Attempting to stop their momentum, the Panthers scored once more but the Bearkats continued their rally. 

Answering back, Fielder collected two kills, scoring two of their four consecutive points and giving them an 18-15 lead.

Both teams went back and forth until senior outside hitter Jade Sadeiko scored and began a small scoring run for FIU.

Following her score, Sam Houston committed two errors and allowed the Panthers to tie the game at 20-20.

Nearing the end of the set, the Bearkats held a 24-23 lead and were a score away from winning.

Junior outside hitter Mackenzie Morgan seized their momentum and scored twice, giving FIU a 25-24 lead.

Committing an untimely mistake for her team, junior middle blocker McKenzie Morvant made an attack error and surrendered a 26-24 loss.

Despite playing an extremely competitive first set, Sam Houston ran out of steam, as they would never lead by more than one point in the remaining two sets.

Winning all three sets in the first match, the Panthers dominated both ends of the court and remained composed while trailing in the game.

Morgan led the team in kills in the first match, totaling ten kills on 28 total attempts and held a 28.6% hitting percentage.

Making an extreme two-way impact, graduate student outside hitter Syra Tanchin collected eight kills and 17 digs, accumulating the most digs on the team.

FIU volleyball’s team statistics compared to Sam Houston’s. Photo courtesy of FIU Athletics. Graphic by Will Duval | PantherNOW.

The second match of the series followed a very similar pattern to the first, with the first set being the most competitive of the three.

FIU claimed an early 5-1 lead to start the game following two kills from Sadeiko and three errors from the Bearkats.

As in the first match, Sam Houston responded to adversity after falling into a deficit, with Morvant, Baker and Fielder each consecutively scoring.

Stealing a 7-6 lead over the Panthers, both teams matched each other’s scoring until the game sat at 14-13, favoring the Bearkats.

Following four consecutive errors, FIU fell into a 18-13 hole and didn’t want to surrender their first set of the series.

Remaining composed, they collected two service aces, forced two errors and scored seven unanswered points to capture the lead.

Jumping out to a 20-18 lead, the Panthers never looked back and won the set with a score of 25-22.

In a similar fashion to the first game, the second and third sets largely saw FIU dominate the competition.

After surrendering an early 4-1 lead in the second set, they scored ten consecutive points and deflated their opponent’s momentum.

Running away with the final two sets, the Panthers collected a 3-0 win and swept Sam Houston in a two-game series.

Leading the team in kills once again, Morgan accumulated 11 kills on 30 total attempts and held a 26.7% hitting percentage.

Also leading the team in digs for the second match in a row, Tanchin totaled 20 digs while also adding in six kills.

Improving their record to 8-9 on the season, this win marks FIU’s fourth conference win of the year.

Bolstering an undefeated 4-0 record against CUSA opponents, the program is off to its best start in history in conference play.

Looking to keep their historic start going, the FIU volleyball team is hosting the Middle Tennessee Lightning in a two-game series, starting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023 in Miami, Florida.

Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Ocean Bank Convocation Center, with the game being broadcasted on ESPN+.

Follow Will Duval on X: @WillDuval40

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