Entering the season with high expectations, the Florida Southern College Volleyball team started the 2012 campaign by losing four of its first five contests.
- Senior Anne Pietkiewicz said there was no sense of panic after the 1-4 start.
- “I don’t want to say I was discouraged because there is going to be a learning curve with a young team, but it was more like, ‘Let’s get it together,’” Pietkiewicz said.
The Mocs got it together in a hurry, rattling off nine consecutive victories after the slow start. Pietkiewicz attributes the team’s persistence to the attitude of head coach Jill Stephens.
“She was mad that we didn’t play well, but she never gets discouraged,” Pietkiewicz said. “She always believes in her program and our team. And I think it’s huge for us to have a coach that we know believes in us.”
Stephens, a former standout at FSC, said that the leadership of seniors Pietkiewicz, Morgan Kosterlitz and junior Ali Skayhan has played a huge role in the Mocs’ success.
“All three have played an instrumental role in keeping this team together,” Stephens said. “We have faced a lot of adversity with injuries and whatnot, but they’ve kept everyone together and composed.”
Unfortunately for the Moccasins, their winning streak was snapped in their first meeting with perennial powerhouse Tampa. Despite the loss, Stephens was encouraged by her team’s ability to go toe-to-toe with the Spartans.
“It was a confidence boost. Listening to the team talk amongst themselves after that game, they feel like they’re right there with [Tampa],” Stephens said.
Pietkiewicz agreed that the tough loss only improved the team’s confidence.
- “After we played Tampa, I felt more confident than I have in my whole career here. I think we have a really good chance to beat them,” Pietkiewicz said.
The Mocs, holding third place in the Sunshine State Conference, carried that confidence into a huge weekend, with a Friday-night contest at Eckerd before coming home for a rematch with Tampa.
Heading into matchups with the top two teams in the SSC on consecutive days, Stephens was more concerned with her team than its opponents.
“We’re focusing more on getting better as a team than beating Tampa. That’s all we can do is get better every time we step on the floor,” Stephens said.
Stephens did, however, acknowledge the intensity of the rivalry, adding that nobody at FSC likes Tampa.
Well, Florida Southerners were given another reason to dislike Tampa Saturday, as the Spartans dominated the Mocs on their home floor. The defeat came on the heels of the Mocs’ four-set loss at Eckerd on Friday night.
The back-to-back losses brought the Mocs’ record to 7-5 in the SSC and 17-11 overall. Despite the setback, Pietkiewicz remains confident as the postseason approaches.
“Our goal is to win a regional. That’s my gameplan,” Pietkiewicz said. “I’ve always been confident in our team and I think we can do well in regionals. We just have to make it first.”
The Mocs have four more chances to bolster their postseason resume before the NCAA South Regional begins on Nov. 29.
Photos from the Mocs’ loss to Tampa: