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FSU Begins National Title Chase Friday



May 1, 2014

GULF SHORES, Ala. (Seminoles.com) - The third-seeded Florida State sand volleyball team is chasing its first national title this weekend on the beaches of Gulf Shores, Ala. at the 2014 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships.

Florida State is making its third consecutive appearance at the national championships and opens the event against No. 6 seed Stetson at 10 a.m. CT on Friday.

"This is our third time at the national championships," Florida State head coach Danalee Corso said. "We shouldn't be nervous. If we focus on our game - which is always our strategy - we'll be fine. Stetson is a smaller team, but we won't take them lightly. They deserve to be here and we are ready to compete."

The Seminoles and Hatters are joined at the third annual national championship by No. 1 seed Southern California, No. 2 seed Pepperdine, No. 4 seed Hawai'i and No. 5 seed Florida International.

A win over Stetson will vault FSU into a 1 p.m. CT match against Pepperdine for a direct berth in the National Semifinals of the double-elimination bracket.

The Semifinals will be at 11 a.m. CT and 12 p.m. CT on Saturday and the Championship Match is slated for 3:30 p.m.

FSU and Pepperdine are the only teams to have been selected to all three National Championships, dating back the inaugural collegiate sand season in 2012.

The Seminoles (16-1) have been on the cusp of contending for the national title each year and advanced to the National Semifinals in both 2012 and 2013. FSU was edged by both national finals participants Long Beach State and Pepperdine, 3-2, last year.

Led by its top pair of senior Aurora Davis and junior Jace Pardon (36-1), FSU has rolled to 11 consecutive dual match victories since barely falling to No. 1 seed Southern California, 3-2, in Los Angeles in March.

"We worked eight months in the offseason for this," Pardon said. "It came fast. Everybody is ready. Everybody has worked really hard all season. We are more prepared than we have been in years past. We are hoping to finally bring that trophy back to Florida State."

Entering the weekend, Pardon and Davis have won 25 consecutive matches without dropping a set. The All-American duo will compete in the Pairs Championship portion of the event and will likely be joined by FSU's No. 2 team of junior Stephanie Pellitteri and sophomore Kristina Pellitteri. The sisters are 22-5 this season and have won 85 percent of their matches together over two years.

The Pairs Championship bracket will begin at 8 a.m. CT on Sunday and the Pairs Championship match is scheduled for 2 p.m.

The Seminoles arrived at Gulf Shores on Wednesday afternoon and immediately hit the beach courts for a light two-hour practice.

Florida State has five players competing at their third straight national championship (Davis, Pardon, Stephanie Pellitteri, Sarah Wickstrom and Fatma Yildirim) and the team exudes the focus and determination expected of a veteran squad. It's clear what the goal is this weekend.

"We are the underdogs," Corso said. "We aren't expected to win, but we know we can win. We know what the West Coast teams bring to the table. We know they've gotten better, but so have we. We are staying loose and not stressed. We are ready to do our thing."

The Seminoles' No. 3 pair this weekend will be Yildirim, a 2012 indoor volleyball All-American, and Wickstrom, who was a sand All-American in 2013 while playing at the No. 1 position with Pardon.

At No. 4, FSU will play junior Melanie Pavels and sophomore Julie Brown, while freshmen Sierra Sanchez and Hailey Luke will play at No. 5.

"It feels good to be back," Stephanie Pellitteri said. "We've been training all year. We are ready for anything that comes at us. We are excited to start on Friday and hopefully come home with a national championship." . CBS Sports Network will televise portions of the competition in a two-hour special that will havde three airings on May 26 (7 p.m. ET), May 30 (7:30 p.m. ET) and June 2 (7 p.m. ET).

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

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