MIAMI SHORES, Fla. -- If ever a statement were made more loud and clear, this was it.
Barry knocked off the No. 2-ranked team in the South Region, beating Eckerd, 26-24, 25-23, 20-25, 21-25, 15-9, Friday in Health & Sports Center for a win that strengthened its NCAA Division II National Tournament resume, giving the committee something serious to think about.
The Buccaneers (17-12, 9-6 Sunshine State Conference) have won six of their last seven, their only loss to No. 29 nationally-ranked Palm Beach Atlantic, which closed its regular season with 10 straight victories. Barry also beat the Nos. 7-8 teams in the South Region on the road, albeit, two weeks ago.
Earlier this year, the Bucs rallied from four match points down to beat the No. 18 team in the country when they overcame Lewis in a thrilling five-set match. They went 3-1 in Michigan at a tournament that featured the likes of No. 30 Grand Valley State.
The top eight teams in each region qualify for the national tournament. Barry entered the week No. 8 in the South, but picked up a pair of five-set victories already this week to assure a winning record in region matches.
Indeed, the Bucs made a case to be playing volleyball past Turkey Day. And they did it with another revealing sign of character in a season in which they've saved their best volleyball for last.
Now they'll conclude the regular season with Saturday's 4 p.m. home finale against No. 7 Tampa -- the eyes of the college volleyball world upon them for the run they've put together at the end of the season. What a run it's been.
On this night, it started with the seniors.
Senior setter Mima Hajdukovic gave Barry a 21-19 lead in the opening set when she swatted home one of her 11 kills on a night she reached a milestone. Eckerd (21-9, 12-4 SSC) battled back to tie the first set twice more, but Laine Cielena's kill put the opener away for a 1-0 Bucs' lead.
The Bucs jumped out to a 21-15 lead in the second set before the Tritons chipped away to close within 22-20 and again at 24-23, but Jayla Trombley banged down a punishing kill to give Barry a 2-0 match lead.
Eckerd wasn't ready to go home easily however, winning the third and fourth sets to bring everyone inside HSC to the edge of their seats in a match that meant so much for the Buccaneers. The Tritons two middle set victories signalled the eighth time Barry has been forced into a fifth set to determine a winner this year.
But that's when the Bucs are at their best, and they followed suit again Friday.
Senior libero Mariana Lisboa served the Buccaneers to an 11-5 lead when she ripped off four straight service points. Eckerd trimmed the gap to four, but senior outside hitter Tania Torres and Ashley Carrero each delivered kills as the Bucs' pursuit of a punctuation point inched closer. Then Lisboa's dig after a Tritons' blast found its way to unoccupied territory on the other side of the net for the match-clinching point.
Lisboa, the charismatic leader whose willingness to fight is a symbol so appropos in a season she battled an injury that kept her sidelined for a few weeks, shed tears of joy afterwards as her teammated danced in celebration.
No win felt as sweet as this one all year for a Buccaneer team which has made a believer out of many, improving to 6-2 in five-set matches with its backs against the wall in a sport so dominated by momentum swings.
Hajdukovic, the always loose floor leader whose light-hearted disposition is so right for a team seeking the spoils of seriousness, had 44 assists to become the 11th player in Buccaneer history to record 1000 assists in a season. With 16 in Saturday's regular season finale, she would move into ninth place all-time in Buccaneer single-season history. Hajdukovic also had four blocks and a .500 attack percentage.
Torres, Trombley and Cielena each had 12 kills. Torres had six blocks and two aces, and hit .348. Cielena had five blocks and a .407 hitting percentage. Trombley had nine digs.
Barry outblocked Eckerd, 12-9. The Bucs also had six aces to the Tritons' four.
Lisboa finished with 13 digs, two aces, five assists and the match-terminating kill. Jasmine Serna had 17 digs, five assists and a pair of back-to-back aces in the second set. Kate Dooley had six kills and three blocks.
SENIOR DAY: Barry will honor its four seniors, Tania Torres, Alicia Guerrero, Mima Hajdukovic and Mariana Lisboa in Saturday's 4 p.m. match against Tampa. Follow the match via LIVE STATS and LIVE VIDEO. Will Sanchez and Mike Laderman will handle the call on the Bucs Broadcast Network.