Will Duval | Sports Director
The FIU volleyball team looks to snap their four game losing streak and upset the No. 3 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the Conference USA tournament in Lynchburg, Virginia on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.
Hoping for a change of pace in this match, the Panthers took a 3-0 loss in their final game of the regular season to the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday, Nov. 11. Getting swept in the two-game series, they finished their season with a 12-18 record.
In that series, they struggled to be accurate as a team and couldn’t keep up with the Aggies’ offensive attack. Between the two games, they could only capture one of their seven sets played.
Entering the series with a 17-9 record, NMSU was also in the midst of a four game win streak. In their previous series, they took back-to-back 3-2 victories against the Sam Houston Bearkats, reaching its conclusion on Saturday, Nov. 5.
After taking a 3-1 victory in the first of a two game series against FIU, they carried their momentum into their final game.
Opening up with the most closely contested set of the game, both teams exchanged the lead throughout the first set. Neither side was able to build a lead larger than two points, with the Panthers holding a lead for the majority of the set.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Starr Williams committed an attack error and gave FIU the largest lead of the set, pushing the score to 20-17.
Not letting up, both teams exchanged blows until the Aggies were able to score three points in a row and take a 23-22 lead.
Unable to fight their offensive attack, the Panthers lost the set with a score of 26-24. Despite pushing the score past the 25-point mark, their final two points came from attack errors.
Playing the most competitive set of the three in the first, they couldn’t capture a set for the remainder of the game.
Losing the second with a score of 25-22 and the final with a score of 25-20, FIU lost the game and took a 3-0 loss.
Graduate student outside hitter Syra Tanchin led the offense and was a team leader in multiple statistics. She finished with a team high ten kills on 24 total attempts and 13 total points.
While leading the team in total attempts, she finished with a 29.2% hitting percentage, which was the highest among players who took more than ten hits.
As a team, the Panthers struggled to find offensive consistency throughout the game. They were only able to accumulate 30 kills over the entire match, with NMSU accumulating 42 kills themselves.
Also bolstering a lower hitting percentage, FIU finished with a 14.8% hitting percentage whereas their opponent finished with a 21.8% hitting percentage.
Closing out the regular season with their fourth consecutive loss, they finished with a 12-18 record. Their 8-8 conference record earned them a spot in the CUSA tournament, where they’ll take on the MTSU Blue Raiders.
MTSU enters the tournament ranked as the third seed after bolstering a 20-7 regular season record. Against conference opponents, they held an 11-5 record, which was the third best in CUSA.
Taking back-to-back losses against the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers in their most recent series, they finished off their season with a 3-1 loss on Nov. 10.
Despite collecting four more kills than their opponent, finishing with 58 kills in the game, the Blue Raiders were only able to win a single set. Committing nine more errors than WKU, their wounds were largely self-inflicted.
Sophomore outside hitter Adri Rhoda led the team with 17 kills in the game, doing so on 33 total attempts. She was one of the four players to accumulate more than ten kills in the game for MTSU.
Last meeting with the Panthers on Oct. 4, 2023, they split a hard fought two-game series, as both games combined for ten sets played.
FIU handed the Blue Raiders one of their seven losses in their matchup on Oct. 3, 2023. While unable to keep up with their high rate of scoring, efficiency and errors set the two teams apart.
Taking 20 less attacks in the matchup, the Panthers played at a much slower pace, finishing with 146 attacks in the game. While playing slower, the differential in kills wasn’t proportionate, as they finished with 57 kills on a 24.7% hitting percentage.
Compared to MTSU, they finished with 66 kills and 33 errors, resulting in a 19.9% hitting percentage.
Graduate student opposite hitter Yasso Amin led the team with 13 kills in the game and a 32.1% hitting percentage. In an all-around team effort, senior outside hitter Jade Sadeiko and junior outside hitter Mackenzie Morgan both finished with 11 kills.
If FIU wants to keep their season alive, they must force the Blue Raiders into errors and inefficiency. Allowing a high volume of kills is permissible, as they also give up a substantial number free points through their errors.
Slow and steady wins the race must be the Panthers’ mantra in order to upset their third seeded opponent.
Traveling to Lynchburg, Virginia, the FIU volleyball team is taking on the No. 3 MTSU Blue Raiders in the CUSA tournament on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.
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