GULF SHORES, Ala. – The Florida State Beach Volleyball team (31-1) pulled off the biggest comeback on day one of competition at the 2016 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships as the top-seeded Seminoles stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to beat fifth-seeded Hawaii, 3-2, to advance to Saturday’s national semifinals on Gulf Shores Beach.
The win for the Seminoles moved their school-record win streak to 17 straight games, while avenging their lone loss of the season to the Rainbow Wahine back on March 26 in DeLand. FSU will now face second-seeded Southern Cal on Saturday, May 7 at 3:00 p.m. CT with the winner advancing to the national championship match on Sunday. Saturday’s semifinal will air live on truTV.
“This is huge for us at this point,” Florida State head coach Brooke Niles said on the Seminoles advancing in the winner’s bracket semifinal game on Saturday. “Our first goal was to remain undefeated after day one, but now we want to win, take it all the way. We are not just happy for being in the final four. We want to win tomorrow and get ready for the championship.”
For the second time on Friday, the Noles got off to a slow start dropping the first set on three of the five courts. Hawaii rode that early momentum into the second set winning in straight sets on courts three and five. UH’s Hannah Rooks/Ari Homayun defeated Nikki Esposito and Hailey Luke on court five, 22-20, 21-16, while the Rainbow Wahine’s Ginger Long and Mikayla Tucker downed Vanessa Freire and Sierra Sanchez, 23-21, 21-19, on court three to take a 2-0 lead.
Hawaii’s lead was short lived as the Seminoles came right back with a pair of straight set victories on courts two and four to even the dual at 2-2. Katie Horton and Annie Montgomery took care of Lara Schreiber and Hannah Zalopany, 21-16, 21-12, on court four to cut the deficit to 2-1. Victoria Paranagua and Nina Pellitteri quickly followed with a win on court two defeating Nikki Taylor and Ka’iwi Schucht, 21-15, 21-16, leaving all eyes on court one.
After dropping the first set 21-14 to Hawaii’s Katie Spieler and Emily Maglio, Julie Brown and Jace Pardon came roaring back to take set two 21-17, to force a third and decisive set. Florida State took an early 4-1 lead and then up 6-3 in the third forced Hawaii to use its only time out. Following the break, the Rainbow Wahine trimmed the Seminole lead to 6-5 before both teams exchanged points and ultimately found themselves tied at 10-10 at the fourth change over. Once again both teams exchanged points before the Noles secured match point at 14-12. Hawaii would not go quietly winning the next two points to tie things up at 14-14 but the Seminoles won the final two points to clinch the match at 16-14 and the team dual at 3-2.
“All year long, Jace and Julie have played at the one spot so they’ve played every single school’s best team and so it’s really been a work in progress for them, working together as a team,” added Niles. “Jace made huge plays when we needed them today and she puts the ball down in transition. Julie is just steady. Julie gets to every single ball all year and she is able to figure it, get in a rhythm and comes up big.”
“We have really good chemistry and we just kept each other calm,” said Pardon. “We knew we could do it; it was just point for point and we just had to take it one point at a time and it was great.”
“The first game was definitely not our best game, but we know what we can do as partners and we can bring each other up,” said Brown. “(Jace) really helped me up that game and we pulled it out. It’s definitely a partner sport and we have a great partnership.”
Saturday’s semifinal will be a rematch from when the two schools met earlier in the year as the Seminoles defeated the Women of Troy, 3-2, in Los Angeles snapping USC’s 19-match home streak.
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 32 – Gulf Shores, Ala. – NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship
No. 1 Florida State d. No. 5 Hawaii, 3-2
Court 1: Julie Brown/Jace Pardon, FSU d. Katie Spieler/Emily Maglio, UH – 14-21, 21-17, 16-14
Court 2: Kristina Pellitteri/Victoria Paranagua, FSU d. Nikki Taylor/Ka’iwi Schucht, UH – 21-15, 21-16
Court 3: Ginger Long/Mikayla Tucker, UH d. Vanessa Freire/Sierra Sanchez, FSU – 23-21, 21-19
Court 4: Katie Horton/Annie Montgomery, FSU d. Lara Schreiber/Hannah Zalopany, UH – 21-16, 21-12
Court 5: Hannah Rooks/Ari Homayun, UH d. Nikki Esposito/Hailey Luke, FSU – 22-20, 21-16
Order of Finish: 5, 3, 4, 2, *1
*clinched dual win