Stefano Rivera/ Contributing Writer
The 2016 FIU Women’s Beach Volleyball season has yet to begin; however, the practices are in full swing and the team is preparing for another successful year on the sand.
One of the players that will be looking to compete and help the team is sophomore, Estefanie Bethancourt. Bethancourt is a native of Guatemala and attended Colegio Interamericano prior to FIU. There she lettered in volleyball for three years and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in 2013. At 5 foot 9, she is the shortest player on the Panthers; however, she has not let her height affect her style of play.
Last season as a freshman, Bethancourt did not play much, only appearing in three exhibition matches before the regular season. She had a combined record of 1-2 in those matches, but this season Bethancourt will be looking for a top-ten spot in the team now that she is a more experienced player. The Panthers had six player who graduated a year ago, making it difficult to compete with the experience and talent those upperclassmen had .
Bethancourt did, however, attend the 2015 American Volleyball Coaches Association National Championship as an alternate player, which took place in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Being born and raised in Guatemala, Bethancourt has been able to compete in international competitions, including the 2015 Under 21 Women’s Central American Beach Volleyball Championship in Panama. Partnered up with fellow Guatemalan sophomore, Natalia Giron, Bethancourt was able to win gold in a first place finish. The duo defeated Nicaragua 2-0 in the finals and did not lose a single match.
“It was certainly an exciting experience,” Bethancourt explained, “we lost that championship in 2014 so it was exciting to get the title this time.”
Aside from competing in the WCABV Championship, she has also competed in the Junior Olympics, representing her country.
The duo of Bethancourt and Giron is currently Guatemala’s No. 1 team and is ranked eighth in the North, Central American and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation, which consists of 40 countries.
“I think we’ve grown together as a team now, since we get to play with a lot of different people here. Like in Guatemala there are not a lot of beach volleyball players, but here we got the experience to play with different people and that has made us grow as a national team too”, Bethancourt explained.
Bethancourt hopes to help lead her team to another stellar season. Last year, the Panthers finished 20-3, defeating numerous elite teams such as Florida State University, Stetson University, and Pepperdine University. The team fell short in the quarterfinals of the AVCA National Championships in a rematch against Pepperdine.
Players are aware it will be difficult to match the season the six seniors left behind, but they know they are capable of accomplishing such a feat.
Bethancourt said, “I think we want to get to Nationals first, then do our best to get the title.”
The team will start the season off in the FIU Fort Lauderdale Beach Invitational on Friday, March 4 against the University of New Orleans.