Beach Volleyball Finishes Fourth at NCAA Championship
GULF SHORES, Ala. – After upsetting second-seeded UCLA, 3-1, on Saturday morning, Florida State's thrilling comeback attempt came up just short against fifth-seeded Hawaii. The Seminoles narrowly finished fourth at the 2017 NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship.
It marks the fifth top-four finish at the national championship in six trips for the Seminoles.
Trailing 2-0, Florida State won a pair of three-set matches to tie the dual 2-2 against the Rainbow Wahine in the battle to make the final day of the national tournament. The final point came down to court five where Hawaii eliminated the Noles in an epic third set, 27-25, to give the Rainbow Wahine the 3-2 victory.
“We had an amazing season and to come in fourth at nationals is not a bad way to end it,” Florida State head coach Brooke Niles said. “This is why I love beach volleyball in college because it's a true team sport and it always comes down to one game and it could have gone either way. Hats off to Hawaii and congrats to them, but it hurts for us.”
Florida State finished the 2017 season with a 29-9 record, the second most wins in a season behind the 32 wins from a year ago.
After a very windy first day of the championship, the Noles stepped onto the beach on a mild Saturday afternoon against the Bruins.
The Garnet and Gold got out to a slow start as they trailed on three of the five courts midway into the first set. Florida State was able to turn it around and take set one on three different courts.
The Bruins were able to capture the first point of the match as they took court three in straight sets. The UCLA duo of Torrey Van Winden and Elise Zappia defeated FSU's senior Sierra Sanchez and sophomore Macy Jerger, 21-13, 21-13.
The Noles fought back and made sure that would be the only point UCLA gained as they won three straight points to take the match 3-1.
Florida State gathered its first point on court four as redshirt junior Katie Horton and freshman Francesca Goncalves won in straight sets, 21-18, 21-18, for their first win of the weekend. Juniors Victoria Paranagua and Vanessa Freire broke the 1-1 tie as they won their match in three sets, 21-18, 16-21, 15-10.
The match came down to courts one and five as the Noles trailed on both. The Seminoles' No. 1 pair of graduate Leigh Andrew and sophomore Brooke Kuhlman were down 12-10 in the third set, but were able to come back and tie it up at 14-14. While court one was battling, FSU's pair of redshirt junior Hailey Luke and redshirt freshman Eva Torruella were trying to make a comeback of their own down 13-9.
Andrew and Kuhlman exchanged points with the McNamara twins of UCLA until they took the lead 16-15, and then put them away 17-15 to take the match 3-1.
“I had no idea that was to win the game until I turned around and saw the whole team running towards us,” Andrew said. “It was such a great feeling.”
This marked the first time all season that Florida State had beaten the second-ranked Bruins.
The Seminoles' season came to an end as they lost to Hawaii for the second time this weekend.
The Noles were down 2-0 early and battled back to tie it up before the exciting match on court five.
Hawaii grabbed the first point of the match on court four as they defeated Horton and Goncalves in straight sets, 21-14, 22-20. The Rainbow Wahine expanded their lead to two as they beat Sanchez and Jerger on court three, 21-16, 20-22, 15-7.
The Seminoles had fight in them as they came back and tied it up at 2-2. Paranagua and Freire lost the first set, but came back take the last two. The duo went back and forth with Hawaii until they pulled away and took the third set 15-13 to get the Noles within one.
On court one, Andrew and Kuhlman were also in a third set battling to keep the Garnet and Gold alive. They were down 7-4 early in the third set, but fought back to tie it up at 9-9. The pair was finally able to get ahead and take down Hawaii's pair of Morgan Martin and Mikayla Tucker, 17-15, behind Andrew's seven blocks.
With the match tied 2-2 everyone's attention turned to court five between Florida State's Luke and Torruella and Hawaii's Amy Ozee and Hannah Zalopany. The pairs were exchanging points from the start and no one could get an advantage. Hawaii was finally able to pull it out in the end as the set to 15 got extended and the Rainbow Wahine pulled out a 27-25 third set victory.
The Noles show no signs of slowing down heading into the 2018 season under Niles. FSU returns eight players who started in the national championship and lose only three players off the CCSA Champions.
Andrew, Kuhlman, Paranagua and Freire will all continue their season next week as they will be competing in the USA Volleyball Collegiate Pairs Tournament. The two teams will compete against a field of 24 teams in Hermosa Beach, Calif. with a chance of making the USA Collegiate National Team.
No. 4 Florida State 3, No. 2 UCLA 1 – Gulf Shores, Ala.
No. 4 Florida State 2, No. 5 Hawaii 3 – Gulf Shores, Ala.