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Sand Volleyball Advances to Third Straight Final Four



May 2, 2014

GULF SHORES, Ala. (Seminoles.com) - The Florida State sand volleyball team advanced to its third consecutive Final Four, going 2-1 on Friday during Day 1 of competition at the 2014 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships.

Florida State opened the event by cruising past No. 6 seed Stetson, 5-0, before falling to No. 2 seed Pepperdine, 4-1, in the six-team, double-elimination tournament held on the beaches of Gulf Shores.

The Seminoles rebounded to sweep No. 5 seed Florida International, 5-0, in the afternoon to return to the National Semifinals where FSU will face No. 4 seed Hawaii at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday.

Florida State (18-2) will be seeking its first-ever National Finals appearance (3:30 p.m. CT) in its match with the Rainbow Wahine (20-3).

"We're back in the Final Four and that was one of our goals so that's awesome," Florida State head coach Danalee Corso said. "We played really well in our last match against FIU and we are looking forward to playing tomorrow. Pepperdine is a tough team. They are the only team in the nation that we have played that we haven't beat yet. Hopefully, we can see them in the Finals. I think we match up well with Hawaii, so we are excited about that."

Hawaii defeated FIU, 4-1, and snapped No. 1 seed USC's 21-match win streak with a 3-2 upset victory.

After falling to the Waves, the Seminoles faced FIU in a must-win match to advance to the Semifinals or be knocked out of the tournament.

The Garnet and Gold rose to the occasion, winning in two sets on every court against the Panthers.

Senior Fatma Yildirim and junior Sarah Wickstrom were the top performers for the Seminoles throughout the day as the only duo to go undefeated at 3-0.

The pair of All-Americans did not drop a set on Court 3, routing FIU 21-14, 21-12 and winning tough battles against Pepperdine (21-17, 21-19) and coming back in the second set to upend Stetson (21-18, 22-20). Yildirim had a match-high 31 kills versus the Hatters.

"We played three full games today," Yildirim said. "It's hard to come back after you lose and try to win, but we won every game against FIU, so I'm really proud of my teammates. Sarah is so easy to play with. She is a positive player and I we really play well together. We went undefeated today because she is a great partner. Hopefully, we will go undefeated again tomorrow and win it all."

FSU's No. 1 team of senior Aurora Davis and junior Jace Pardon swept FIU's top duo of Jessica Gehrke and Marina Boulanger 21-11, 21-13, while junior Stephanie Pellitteri and sophomore Kristina Pellitteri stormed past the Panthers on Court 2, 21-11, 21-13.

Both top pairs finished 2-1 on the day with close losses to Pepperdine.

Davis and Pardon went step for step with the Waves' top duo of Kellye Larsen and Kellie Woolever but were edged in the end 21-19, 21-19.

The Pellitteri sisters fought hard on Court 2 versus Pepperdine, winning an epic, back-and-forth first set 28-26 against the No. 2 tandem of Lara Dykstra and Becca Strehlow, before dropping the next two sets, 21-19, 15-9.

"It was tough to lose that first game," Kristina Pellitteri said. "It's double-elimination so we had to come back and win that final game. We played amazing against FIU. It's really exciting to be going back to the Final Four and be able to keep that streak going. It was win or go home and we stepped up."

Junior Melanie Pavels and sophomore Julie Brown also won on Court 4 versus the Panthers, 21-19, 21-18, while freshmen Sierra Sanchez and Hailey Luke were impressive in winning 26-24, 21-15 on Court 5 to complete the end-of-day sweep against FIU.

"Hawaii beat FIU 4-1, so I really wanted to beat (FIU) 5-0, and we did," Corso said. "That was huge. It was just the second time we have lost all season. We aren't used to losing. We just said `let's shake this off and look ahead.'

"We haven't faced Hawaii yet this year, but they've been playing really well. We definitely can win."

Florida State's only other meeting against Hawaii came during the inaugural 2012 sand volleyball campaign when the Seminoles defeated the Rainbow Wahine twice (4-1, 4-1) in a doubleheader in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Seminoles fell to the Waves for the second straight season in Gulf Shores. Every match was a battle, however.

The 5-0 victory over Stetson gives the Seminoles a 4-0 record all-time against the Hatters with every win coming via sweep.

For more information visit Seminoles.com and follow the Florida State sand volleyball team's official twitter account @FSU_SVB.

National Championship
Friday Results
#3 Florida State 5, #6 Stetson 0
At Gulf Shores, Ala.
1.) Jace Pardon-Aurora Davis (FSU) def. Kaylee Anderson-Kaley Melville (STET) 21-12, 21-14
2.) Stephanie Pellitteri-Kristina Pellitteri (FSU) def. Catherine Coston-Savannah Byl (STET) 21-15, 21-12
3.) Fatma Yildirim-Sarah Wickstrom (FSU) def. Rachael Farrell-Julie Bassett (STET) 21-18, 22-20
4.) Julie Brown-Melanie Pavels (FSU) def. Maren Rygh-Jordann Dierickx (STET) 21-15, 21-14
5.) Sierra Sanchez-Hailey Luke (FSU) def. Kristin Lind-Tiffany Creamer (STET) 21-19, 16-21, 15-10

#2 Pepperdine 4, #3 Florida State 1
At Gulf Shores, Ala.
1.) Kelley Larsen/Kellie Woolever (Pep) def. Jace Pardon-Aurora Davis (FSU) 21-19, 21-19
2.) Lara Dykstra/Becca Strehlow (Pep) def. Stephanie Pellitteri-Kristina Pellitteri (FSU) 26-28, 21-19, 15-19
3.) Fatma Yildirim-Sarah Wickstrom (FSU) def. Delaney Knudsen/Caitlin Racich (Pep) 21-17, 21-19
4.) Emily Cook/Katie Messing (Pep) def. Julie Brown-Melanie Pavels (FSU) 22-20, 21-12
5.) Sophie Asperey/Victoria Adelhelm (Pep) def. Sierra Sanchez-Hailey Luke (FSU) 21-18, 21-14

#3 Florida State 5, #5 Florida International 0
At Gulf Shores, Ala.
1.) Jace Pardon-Aurora Davis (FSU) def. Jessica Gehrke/Marina Boulanger (FIU) 21-14, 21-10
2.) Stephanie Pellitteri-Kristina Pellitteri (FSU) def. Tina Toghiyani/Erin Cupp (FIU) 21-11, 21-13
3.) Fatma Yildirim-Sarah Wickstrom (FSU) def. Jessica Mendoza/Ksenia Sukhareva (FIU) 21-14, 21-12
4.) Julie Brown-Melanie Pavels (FSU) def. Kris Monforte/Marty Gluchowicz (FIU) 21-19, 21-18
5.) Sierra Sanchez-Hailey Luke (FSU) def. Maja Rosko/Mila Rosado

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