OCALA--The College of Central Florida volleyball team was unable to force a fifth set and earn sole possession of the Mid-Florida Conference, as Santa Fe closed in and took the match in four (25-19, 25-14, 11-25, 25-23). CF still holds a portion of the conference title as they and Santa Fe are this year's conference co-champions.
With the defeat, the Patriots finished tied atop the MFC standings with SFC at 8-2. CF defeated the Saints in five sets earlier this season, but since the Saints won in four sets on Thursday, they will earn the MFC's top seed for the upcoming FCSAA/NJCAA Region VIII Tournament in starting November 5 at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
The Patriots (25-7, 8-2) will be the No. 2 seed from the MFC at the state tournament. Therefore, CF will face State College of Florida-Manatee, winner of the Suncoast Conference in the opening round.
Santa Fe will face the No. 3 seed from the MFC, which will be determined in a tie-breaker match on Tuesday night between FSC-J and Daytona State.
On Thursday, the Patriots struggled in the first two sets, before dominating the third.
From there, CF held a 22-21 lead in the fourth set, but the Saints scored three straight points to have a chance to close the match. The Patriots, though, were able to close to within 1, before SFC's Ruth Harrington ended the match with her seventh kill of the fourth set.
SFC, a first-year program under former University of Florida assistant Nick Cheronis, won its seventh straight match and improved to 27-4.
The Saints, ranked fourth in the state and No. 16 in the NJCAA, last suffered a defeat on October 7 against the Patriots.
For CF, the No. 2 team in the state and No. 6 squad in the nation, it lost just the sixth time at home in four seasons. The Lady Patriots come off the road winning the last 11 of 12 matches prior to last night's game, but were unable to rally past the Saints, who held an early four-point lead in the fourth set.
CF, though, fought back behind the play of Julymar Otero, who had six kills in the fourth set. In the end, the likes of Harrington and Kaylin Powell were too much for CF to handle down the stretch.
Otero finished the match with 22 kills and three blocks, while Marcela Frazzoni added 10 kills.
The Lady Patriots head back on the road tomorrow for a pair of non-conference match ups between Webster University and State College of Florida-Manatee.