Stefano Rivera/Contributing Writer
The sand volleyball team continued to show how dominant they are this past weekend at the Palmetto Invitational in Columbia, South Carolina. The Panthers played two top-sixteen teams this weekend against No. 3 Pepperdine University and No. 16 University of South Carolina.
The team started the weekend against Pepperdine, the defending National Champions, on Saturday, March 28 for a top six matchup. The Panthers would end up sneaking by a tightly contested game with a 3-2 victory against the Waves.
The Panthers initially fell behind as Sophie Asprey and Taylor Racich defeated senior Darija Sataric and sophomore Savannah Davis at the No. 4 position. However, the Panthers would bounce back to even the score at 1-1 as Kristine Monforte and Summer Nash defeated Lara Dykstra and Becca Strehlow 21-19, 21-19 at the No. 2 position.
The Panthers took their first lead of the afternoon as senior Tina Toghiyani and sophomore Aren Cupp defeated Katie Messing and Corrine Quiggle 21-19, 21-16. The Waves would later tie it at 2-2 to then play a match-deciding game.
The Panthers No. 1 pair, Maryna Samoday and Anja Licka, defeated Pepperdine’s No. 1 pair, Kelley Larsen and Kellie Woolever, as the team ended up winning 3-2. With this win, the Panthers improved to (3-0) against AVCA Top 10 teams and 12-1 for the season.
The team looked to use its victory over Pepperdine as momentum for the matchup against South Carolina. Once again, the Panthers won closely contested sets as they prevailed 3-2. The team jumped off to a good start as Martyna Gluchowicz and Anna Budinska defeated Jade Hayes and Macie Tendrich at the No. 4 position. The Gamecocks would even the score as their No. 2 position bested the Panthers.
After splitting the next two matchups, the Panthers were placed in a familiar position. Tied 2-2, the team saved its No. 1 pair for the last game. Samoday and Licka ousted the Gamecocks with a 21-16, 22-20 victory. With this win, the team improved to 13-1 and has won twelve straight games.
The Panthers are set to host the Doctors Hospital FIU Surf and Turf Invitational in Miami Beach on Thursday, April 3. They will play against Florida Atlantic University, Webber International University, Stanford University, and Carson-Newman University. These teams are a combined 7-15.
Using a successful weekend, the Panthers will look to extend their win streak, continue to climbing the national rankings, and win their first home tournament of the season.