Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky ruled the Sun Belt volleyball courts in 2011 and 2012. Since FIU last beat Middle, in 2010, Middle hasn't just won five straight matches -- it's swept the five matches 3-0.
So when Thursday's Conference USA Tournament opener for No. 11 seed FIU opened with No. 6 and tournament host Middle whipping off a 25-18 first set win and followed with Middle overcoming a 12-5 FIU lead to take set No. 2 29-27, it looked like another one-two-three-and-out for FIU.
Instead, the Panthers pulled off a 3-2 (18-25, 27-29, 25-20, 25-22, 15-11) upset. FIU faces No. 3 seed Tulsa Friday at 5 p.m. The match will be on the Conference USA Digital Network.
Thursday, FIU found itself down 6-2 early in the third set. Considering the macro trend of history and the micro one of the match, a Panthers collapse would've been predictable, even understandable. Instead, they went on a 7-0 run begun by a Gloria Levorin kill off a Jessica Egan assist and ending with a Martyna Gluchowicz kill. Another 5-0 run pushed their lead to 18-10 on the way to taking the third set.
A 4-0 fourth set run gave FIU a 9-5 lead and the Panthers stayed in front until the match was tied, 2-2. An even third set got opened up with a 5-0 run to 14-9 featuring a kill by Gluchowicz and a kill and a block by Levorin. The same combination that began the match-turning third set run, Egan setting up Levorin, did so for the final point.
Gluchowicz and Castro each had 17 kills while Levorin had 16. Egan racked up 48 assists. Gluchowicz also came up with a team-high 17 digs.