Panthers continue climb in national rankings with Buck-Crockett at helm

FIU sand volleyball is in the middle of an impressive winning streak and fully prepped to crash the party which will be the largest collegiate sand competition for NCAA institutions in the country, the Fiesta on Siesta Key Tournament.

With 200 doubles teams competing from 32 institutions around the country, this event is a true test for what the competition will be like at Nationals.

The Panthers haven’t lost since the first week of the season and currently hold a 13-2 overall record. Coming off a 4-0 weekend at the Surf & Turf Tournament FIU defeated Florida Atlantic University, Louisiana State University, the University of North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University.

The Panthers only dropped six sets for the entire weekend and properly honored their seven seniors on the final day; Jessica Mendoza, Maryna Samoday, Ksenia Sukhareva, Camila Rosado, Jessica Gehrke, Maja Rosko and Elly Citron.

Now sitting at number six nationally FIU has continued their steady rise up the national standings from where they started the season; nine overall.

Much of that success can be attributed to tremendous depth as a result of a splendid first year recruiting class.

Three of the freshmen Head Coach Rita Buck-Crockett brought into the program this year start in top three pairs teams.

Aren Cupp, Marina Boulanger, and Giovanna Pasos all came into FIU with the talent to compete and have been put in the best positions to succeed.

“We got a lot of good players this year. It’s a great mix of players that have proven themselves before and freshman that are more than ready to compete. As a coach, it’s great because it creates such a positive environment with the freshman being able to push everybody to be better,” Buck-Crockett said.

Pasos currently partners with senior, Jessica Mendoza, on the No. 1 pairs team at FIU.

Mendoza brings plenty of experience and leadership from a history in both sand and indoor volleyball as she was the floor captain for FIU’s indoor team this past year as well.

After finishing third at the AVCA Championships last year she is continuing to meet expectations.

The pleasant surprise of the year has been her partner, Giovanna Pasos.

Hopes were high for the Brazilian from the moment Buck-Crockett got her to sign to play at FIU way back in November. But no one could have expected her to step into the number one spot and be so effective immediately.

“At first I was having a bit of a rough time, the American game is much more physical while the Brazilian style focuses more on technique. Conditioning was tough but we have such a great team and everyone works together so well it’s easy to overcome any obstacles we face,” Pasos said.

The stage is set for FIU to continue its ascent into the national spotlight and they will have their chance to square off against top 10 competition they could meet again at this year’s AVCA Championships.

Both Georgia State University and Florida State University will be at the Fiesta this weekend, with a shot at redemption from an early season loss to FSU on the line for the Panthers.

“Were peaking at the right time, I can see the team starting to reach to the next level, and now we will have one more push and hopefully everything lines up for a selection to Nationals,” Buck-Crockett said.


About the Author

Oscar Baldizon
: Radio Host for Panther Sports Talk Live. Majoring in Broadcast Media, Class of 2016. Enjoy long walks on the beach and dishing out savvy sports knowledge.

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