Polk State Volleyball posted its second loss of the season Tuesday night, falling in three straight sets to HCC, 19-25, 22-25, 20-25.
The loss was particularly stinging because of the fierce rivalry between Polk State and Hillsborough, and because Polk was forced to play without one of its strongest teammates.
Though the Eagles had a history-making 2011-12 season, bringing home the program's first Suncoast Conference Championship, Hillsborough proved a frustrating competitor, defeating Polk in three of four faceoffs.
"They were the only team that could beat us in our conference, and ever since then, we've been looking at them as the one to beat," said assistant coach Chris Williams.
Fresh off its Sept. 13 victory in three straight sets over South Florida State, Polk State had focused all its energy on the HCC matchup. The team suffered a surprise setback, however, last Friday when sophomore powerhouse Diannemarie Rivera-Romero tripped at her apartment broke her collarbone.
She will not be able to return to the court for several weeks.
Rivera-Romero, was a FCSAA All-Conference First Team selection in 2011-12 and one of the team's most consistent contributors.
"She doesn't always get the most kills, but she gets the most done all around and we can rely on her on the court," Williams said.
Rivera-Romero's injury forced the team to experiment with a new lineup, one that it began practicing on Monday, the day before meeting HCC. The new formation essentially means relying on multiple players — freshmen Kelly Gallamore (M), Genesis Mejias (M), Ashley Toth (S), and sophomore Jordan Raulerson (OH) — to fill Rivera-Romero's gap, Head Coach German Del Valle explained.
"DiannMarie is the core of our team, she's our captain," he said. "But when we were clicking against HCC, we were a better team than they are."