Beach Noles Rally to Top No. 2 Pepperdine
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The fourth-ranked Florida State beach volleyball team picked up one of the biggest wins in school history, defeating two-time national champion and second-ranked Pepperdine, 3-2, on Friday afternoon at the FSU Alumni Weekend Tournament at the Seminole Beach Volleyball Courts.
The Noles picked up third-set victories on Courts 1 and 2 within a minute of each other to edge the Wave in the seventh meeting all-time between the two beach volleyball powerhouse programs. FSU avenged a 3-2 loss to the Pepperdine from earlier this season on March 12 in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and continued its incredible 24-match undefeated streak at home. The Noles are 24-0 all-time in dual matches at the Seminole Beach Volleyball Complex.
“Last time we played Pepperdine it was just as close,” Florida State head coach Brooke Niles said. “We grinded out a little better at the end. I told them before the match to expect every match to go 16-14 in the third set, so I think they were mentally prepared in for the long run.”
Florida State will look to take the momentum from its historic victory into Saturday when the Noles will play three matches, beginning at 9 a.m. against Grand Canyon before facing FIU at 11 a.m. The Seminoles will cap their final home tournament of 2017 with a second match against the Wave at 4 p.m. FSU will honor its three seniors, Leigh Andrew, Sierra Sanchez and Julia Thompson, and hold a ring ceremony for its 2016 CCSA Champions before the final match.
The win over Pepperdine also gives Florida State at least one victory over every program it has ever faced since beach volleyball (then called sand volleyball) first became a collegiate sport in 2012.
“The top courts have been a battle for us all year,” Niles said. “We are such a good point scoring team that if we get frustrated if we don’t score points. This match was really won on our side of the court and side out. We have done a really good job focusing on that this half of the season.”
The Seminoles split with the Wave in the first flight, as redshirt freshman Eva Torruella and redshirt junior Hailey Luke won 21-16, 21-18 on Court 5, while redshirt junior Katie Horton and sophomore Nikki Esposito fell 22-20, 21-10 on Court 4. Torruella had 14 kills and three blocks in the win.
The second flight began with the match knotted in a 1-1 tie, and Florida State captured first set victories on all three courts.
On Court 3, junior Victoria Paranagua and sophomore Macy Jerger won the first set, but dropped the next two, ultimately falling to Pepperdine’s No. 3 pair of Skylar Caputo and Heidi Dyer, 19-21, 21-18, 15-10, to give the Wave a 2-1 advantage.
The top two pairs for the Noles and the Wave battled back and forth in a match that was similar to the teams’ first meeting – only with a better result.
Junior Vanessa Freire and freshman Francesca Goncalves took the first set on Court 2, 21-16, before dropping the second set, 21-19, to Pepperdine’s No. 2 duo of Corinne Quiggle and Brittany Howard. In the tie-breaking third set, the Noles jumped out to an 8-3 lead and held off a Wave comeback attempt to win 15-11 and tie the match at 2-2. Freire had five blocks in the match and had the game-winning kill, while Goncalves tallied 22 kills.
“I think it was point by point,” Freire said. “We were trying not to get too ahead of ourselves, realizing the game was on our shoulders. We were just focusing on our side of the court, getting a clean shot and pushing every point.”
With Freire and Goncalves battling on Court 2, FSU’s No. 1 pair of graduate senior Leigh Andrew and sophomore Brooke Kuhlman were in their own nail-biter with Pepperdine’s top pair of Delaney Kudsen and Madalyn Roh, taking the first set 21-19 before dropping the second set, 21-16. Andrew and Kuhlman were ahead early in the final set, taking a 7-3 lead, but Pepperdine fought back, moving within a point, 14-13, just as FSU was tying the match 2-2. The Noles picked up the final point to win the match with Andrew driving home a powerful kill to end the match and give FSU the 3-2 win.
“This win is awesome,” Andrew said. “It feels so good. To win at home and beat them and hopefully get a better seed in the NCAA tournament. We going to celebrate this win, but we will be back at it again tomorrow.”
Andrew finished with 18 kills, three blocks and three aces in the match, while Kuhlman totaled 15 kills and three aces of her own.
Florida State will take a 19-6 record into Saturday’s second day of the tournament. Pepperdine suffered just is second loss of the season, falling to 19-3 in 2017.
The Seminoles finish up Alumni Weekend Saturday with matches against No. 9/10 Grand Canyon (9 a.m.), No. 14/12 FIU (11 p.m.) and another match against No. 2/3 Pepperdine (4 p.m.) on the Seminole Beach Volleyball Courts. Lives stats for tomorrows matches will be available at Seminoles.com. Admission to the Seminole Beach Volleyball courts is free of charge and parking will be in the Spirt Way Garage just next to the courts. Fans can also follow the Noles on Twitter (@FSU_BeachVB), Facebook (facebook.com/FSUBeachVB) and on Instagram (@FSUBeachVolleyball) for updates from this weekend’s matches.
No. 4 Florida State 3, No. 2/3 Pepperdine 2 – Tallahassee, Fla.