Beach volleyball falls to No. 1 Stetson in ASUN championship
By Jordyn Matez
The No. 3 seeded FGCU beach volleyball team battled through six matches over three days last week, making it to the final round of the ASUN championship and, ultimately, falling to top-seeded Stetson 2-3.
Though the Eagles breezed through the quarterfinals with no issue, sweeping No. 6 North Alabama in five games, trouble arose when No. 2 North Florida outperformed them 2-3 in the semifinals.
This placed FGCU in a Friday 7:30 a.m. matchup against No. 5 Austin Peay in a loser’s bracket quarterfinal, which resulted in another shutout by the Birds, this time 3-0.
Advancing to the loser’s bracket semifinal, FGCU faced No. 4 Coastal Carolina for an opportunity to advance to the final round.
Three games in, the Eagles led 2-1 and hopes were high. A three-plus hour lightning delay forced the teams to put the match on hold, which proved to be detrimental to FGCU.
Coming back onto the court, the Chanticleer’s evened up the match 2-2 with a third-set win in the No. 4 pair.
It was then up to Karissa Rhoades and Katherine Pulsis to lead FGCU to a win, and they did just that with a two-set sweep.
The third and final day began with a spectacular redemption match against North Florida, who had knocked them off the winner’s bracket in the semifinals.
Though the Ospreys captured the first match-win, Rhoades and Pulsis evened up the score through a 2-0 sweep. It was then up to the duo of Snowy Burnam and Kayla Whetstone to send the Eagles to the championship, and they did just that in a nail-biting, three-set match.
The first win of the championship round against Stetson came from Giovanna Borgiotti and Emma Hansen, who climbed back after dropping an 11-1 lead in the first set to win the overall match 2-1.
Following that, Amanda Carroll and Kristine Gardner defeated their opponents in two sets.
The next two pairs both went to three sets, in which the Hatters took both to secure a win.
Though the ending was not the result they had hoped for, the Eagles closed out their season with the best record in program history and a well-fought match against Stetson, who was ranked eighth in the country going into the match.
Caroll and Gardner’s two-set sweep of Stetson’s Sunniva Helland-Hansen and Carly Perales was just their ninth two-set loss in almost three years together and their first loss to an unranked team.
“I am so proud of this group for their effort, focus and resiliency,” FGCU head coach Matt Botsford said. “This weekend we got a chance to see them display each of those characteristics. To come through the loser’s bracket and find ourselves in the championship match with an opportunity to win, that speaks to their belief in one another.”