GULF SHORES, Ala. – The Florida State Beach Volleyball team (30-1) secured its first-ever win in NCAA Championship play with a 3-0 victory over eighth-seeded Stetson (28-8) on Friday morning in the opening match of the inaugural championship on Gulf Shores Beach. The Seminoles overcame a sluggish start against the Hatters to capture their school-record 16th straight victory as Stetson took the first set on three of the five courts.
Despite the slow start, Florida State took advantage of its early lead on courts two and three en route to straight set victories by Vanessa Freire and Sierra Sanchez on court three and Victoria Paranagua and Kristina Pellitteri on court two.
“Every spot we played (this year) we had to adjust to the conditions; it’s a new place, newer balls and a new team we haven’t seen this year,” Florida State head coach Brooke Niles said. “We just want to get better each and every match. That’s our starting point, so we just need to get better from here.”
Freire/Sanchez wasted little time giving the Noles the early lead defeating Kaylee Anderson and Emily Carroll, 21-16, 23-21. Paranagua/Pellitteri pushed the Seminole lead to 2-0 downing Stetson’s Kristin Lind and Madison Tormey, 21-17, 21-12.
Nikki Esposito and Hailey Luke provided the match clincher on court five with a thrilling three-set victory. After dropping the first set 21-16 to the Hatters’ Jamie Walsh and Alexa Richardson, the Seminole duo forced a decisive third set responding with a 21-14 victory in set two. Stetson ran out to an early 6-2 lead in the third set, but Esposito/Luke closed out the match with a 13-4 run to clinch the dual for the Seminoles.
Action on courts one and four were suspended in the third set with the Seminoles leading in both matches. Both courts dropped the first set to Stetson only to respond with a set two victory to force a third.
Julie Brown and Jace Pardon dropped set one to Vendy Strakova and Sara Putt, 21-13, but took set two 21-17 and led set three 13-7. On court four, Katie Horton and Annie Montgomery also dropped set one, 21-18, to Stetson’s Madison Akins and Samantha Harris. The Seminole pair, playing together for the first time in 2016, took set two, 21-14, and were leading the third set, 6-4, when competition was suspended.
The win marked the third time in five years FSU has opened a national tournament in Gulf Shores with a victory. Ironically, the last time it happened came against the Hatters in the first round of the AVCA Championships in 2014 as the Seminoles rolled to a 5-0 victory.
FSU advances into the winner’s bracket and will face fifth-seeded Hawaii (17-8), who defeated fourth-seeded UCLA, 3-0. The match is set for Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. (CT) and will air live on truTV. The Rainbow Wahine handed the Seminoles their lone loss of the season back on March 26 in DeLand as Hawaii took the match 4-1.
“It’s huge in this tournament, someone has to beat you twice before you get to the finals,” said Niles on advancing into the winner’s bracket. “Obviously, we want to stay in the winner’s bracket as long as we can. But the next match is going to be just as tough as the one we just played against a very good Stetson team.”
Stay tuned to Seminoles.com for more coverage of the Garnet & Gold in Gulf Shores at the inaugural 2016 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships. As always, fans can also follow the Noles on Twitter (FSU_BeachVB) and on Instagram (FSUBeachVolleyball) for continued updates on team.
Match 31 – Gulf Shores, Ala. – NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship
No. 1 Florida State d. No. 8 Stetson, 3-0
Court 1: Julie Brown/Jace Pardon, FSU vs. Vendy Strakova/Sara Putt, STET – (DNF) 13-21, 21-17, 13-7
Court 2: Kristina Pellitteri/Victoria Paranagua, FSU d. Kristin Lind/Madison Tormey, STET – 21-17, 21-12
Court 3: Vanessa Freire/Sierra Sanchez, FSU d. Kaylee Anderson/Emily Carroll, STET – 21-16, 23-21
Court 4: Katie Horton/Annie Montgomery, FSU vs. Madison Akins/Samantha Harris, STET – (DNF) 18-21, 21-14, 6-4
Court 5: Nikki Esposito/Hailey Luke, FSU d. Jamie Walsh/Alexa Richardson, STET – 16-21, 21-14, 15-10
Order of Finish: 3, 2, *5; 1 & 4 DNF
*clinched dual win