February 17, 2017 - by
Seniors Embrace Leadership Roles For FSU Beach Volleyball

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As the veterans of the 2017 Florida State beach volleyball team, seniors Sierra Sanchez and Julia Thompson have high expectations for their season in the sand for the Seminoles.The pair came to FSU in 2014 and have been part of three national championship appearances, including runner-up finishes in 2014 at the AVCA Championships and 2016 at the inaugural NCAA Championship.

 They have helped the Seminoles accumulate an impressive 64-12 record and a CCSA Championship heading into their final years.“We just want to have everyone work hard and push towards the ultimate end goal of a national championship,” Thompson said. “Every year we have smaller goals like being the best in the East or winning the conference. I think we have to work towards those first and push ourselves in practice every day.”

Sanchez, a Valencia, Calif., native who already ranks 10th in school history with 59 wins, has been a starter each year and collected CCSA All-Tournament Team honors in 2016.

“I want to do everything I can to help this team win,” Sanchez said. “Whether I’m on the No. 1 pair or the No. 3 pair, I want to improve on my record I had last year with Vanessa (Freire). We went 27-5 last year, and I want to do better than that this year.”

Sanchez and Thompson do not feel much pressure being the only two four-year seniors because they have several talented players on the roster, ranging from all-conference players such as junior Victoria Paranagua and CCSA Co-Freshman of the Year Nikki Esposito to graduate transfer Leigh Andrew, who was a standout indoor volleyball player at North Carolina.

“I think obviously we are the oldest and have the most experience,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of really good players; we have a lot of experience. We have a very mature team, but at the same time we are young so it is not like we have a lot of people coming in that are overwhelmed with what we are doing or anything like that. Luckily everyone has everything together so we can focus more on the game itself as opposed to everything outside of that.”

Thompson and Sanchez have seen the ups and downs of the sport in their careers. The pair was part of a national championship runner-up squad in 2014 that came within a point of winning a title. The next year, the Seminoles finished a disappointing seventh. Following their sophomore years, Brooke Niles was hired as head coach, and in 2016, the pair helped the Seminoles finish as runner-up at the first-ever NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship.

 

Seniors Embrace Leadership Roles For FSU Beach Volleyball

“I am thankful for what we had because it gave us a chance to work though different kinds of adversity,” said Sanchez. “I think especially Julia and I because we had an even two years and two years with each coach. We have had a lot of experience dealing with different types of challenges and so hopefully we can pass that on to the team this year. Just in general dealing with different types of pressure from different directions.”

Thompson agreed that the addition of Niles breathed new life into the program.

“It brought a new perspective to the girls that were here,” Thompson said about the addition of Niles, who captured AVCA National Coach of the Year honors in her first year. “It made us appreciate what we have at FSU. The new coaches brought in new techniques we could learn so it brought in a new mix of both, which I think is good.”

Niles, like Sanchez and Thompson, has high expectations for the Seminoles, who return 11 players overall, but lose All-Americans Jace Pardon and Julie Brown.

“We are looking forward to the season as a whole,” Niles said. “We have been training hard and have been putting a lot of work in, the season is 10 short weeks and we have to be good every week. We want to be the best team in the East and compete for that national championship. I think they are all aware of that and are putting in the work.”

Without a doubt, Sanchez and Thompson will lead the way this season. It’s a duty both Noles embrace.

“I think with being a younger team what I really want to focus on is coming out with confidence and being able to play steadily throughout the whole season because it is short, but definitely intense,” Sanchez said. “You can see some teams get tired or burned out. Since playing in college is different than any other beach experience that I have had, I think I want to help the team adjust to the actual playing and competing and hopefully try to do the best that we can.”

Sanchez, Thompson and the rest of the Seminole beach volleyball team begin their season with the Garnet and Gold exhibition February 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Seminole Beach Volleyball Courts. The regular season begins March 4 as the Seminoles travel to DeLand, Fla. to face LSU and Stetson.

TALLAHSSEE, Fla. — As the veterans of the 2017 Florida State beach volleyball team, seniors Sierra Sanchez and Julia Thompson have high expectations for their season in the sand for the Seminoles.

The pair came to FSU in 2014 and have been part of three national championship appearances, including runner-up finishes in 2014 at the AVCA Championships and 2016 at the inaugural NCAA Championship. They have helped the Seminoles accumulate an impressive 64-12 record and a CCSA Championship heading into their final years.

 “We just want to have everyone work hard and push towards the ultimate end goal of a national championship,” Thompson said. “Every year we have smaller goals like being the best in the East or winning the conference. I think we have to work towards those first and push ourselves in practice every day.”

Sanchez, a Valencia, Calif., native who already ranks 10th in school history with 59 wins, has been a starter each year and collected CCSA All-Tournament Team honors in 2016.

“I want to do everything I can to help this team win,” Sanchez said. “Whether I’m on the No. 1 pair or the No. 3 pair, I want to improve on my record I had last year with Vanessa (Freire). We went 27-5 last year, and I want to do better than that this year.”

Sanchez and Thompson do not feel much pressure being the only two four-year seniors because they have several talented players on the roster, ranging from all-conference players such as junior Victoria Paranagua and CCSA Co-Freshman of the Year Nikki Esposito to graduate transfer Leigh Andrew, who was a standout indoor volleyball player at North Carolina.

“I think obviously we are the oldest and have the most experience,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of really good players; we have a lot of experience. We have a very mature team, but at the same time we are young so it is not like we have a lot of people coming in that are overwhelmed with what we are doing or anything like that. Luckily everyone has everything together so we can focus more on the game itself as opposed to everything outside of that.”

Thompson and Sanchez have seen the ups and downs of the sport in their careers. The pair was part of a national championship runner-up squad in 2014 that came within a point of winning a title. The next year, the Seminoles finished a disappointing seventh. Following their sophomore years, Brooke Niles was hired as head coach, and in 2016, the pair helped the Seminoles finish as runner-up at the first-ever NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship.

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